Monitor Breakfast Q&A: Rep. Steve Israel

Michael Bonfigli / The Christian Science Monitor
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Steve Israel makes a point during a Monitor Breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC on June 1.

Democratic campaign chief Steve Israel chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is working in the 2012 elections to regain party control of the US House. New Yorkers elected Mr. Israel to Congress in 2000. He was guest speaker at the June 1 Monitor breakfast in Washington. Odds of gaining the 24 seats Democrats need to take control of the House after the 2012 election:

"I can't tell you we can get 24. It is going to be razor close.... The House will be in play, factoring in the uncertainties of redistricting and other challenges and opportunities."

The effect of constitutionally mandated redistricting based on the 2010 Census:

"It is going to be very close to a net zero. Maybe [Republicans] will pick up a couple of seats, maybe [Democrats] will pick up a couple.... Redistricting is not the threat, the huge, existential threat that the Republicans made it out to be."

Future impact of the May 24 special election in New York's heavily Republican 26th Congressional District, won by Democrat Kathleen Hochul amid voter concern about Medicare changes, per the GOP budget plan:

"New York 26 will inform our strategy; it will not be our strategy."

Democratic Party intent to target House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin in 2012, author of the budget plan that would turn Medicare into a voucherlike program:

"As the architect of the Republican plan to terminate Medicare on the one hand, while continuing to fund subsidies for big oil companies on the other, he should be held accountable. Now, Wisconsin has not gone through redistricting [yet], so we will see how the lines are drawn as to the viability."

Plans to target other GOP congressional leaders:

"We are going to target districts not based on whether somebody is a GOP leader, but based on the situation on the ground, based on have they cast a voting record that is out of touch, out of tune with their district."

Why Democrats launched two fundraising groups to take unlimited donations, akin to similar groups founded by Karl Rove on the Republican side:

"I don't believe in unilateral disarmament."

Hopes for gaining House seats in President Obama's home state:

"Illinois and ... the suburbs of Chicago have always been a center of gravity in our plans to retake a House majority."

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