William James "Bill" Pascrell, Jr. (born January 25, 1937) is the U.S. Representative for New Jersey's 9th congressional district. He represented New Jersey's 8th congressional district from January 1997 until the redistricting of January 2013, and is a member of the Democratic Party. The district includes Pascrell's hometown of Paterson as well as parts of Bergen and Hudson Counties.
The grandson of Italian immigrants, Pascrell was born in Paterson, New Jersey, the son of Roffie J. (née Loffredo) and William James Pascrell. He attended St. George’s Elementary School, and in 1955, graduated from St. John the Baptist High School, where he was elected student council president. Pascrell went on to attend Fordham University in New York and subsequently earned a Bachelors in journalism and a Masters in philosophy. Pascrell spent 12 years as a high school teacher in Paramus, New Jersey, during which he taught several courses including psychology, before being hired as a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Previously, Pascrell was appointed to the Paterson Board of Education, where he served as president of the Board. He also served on the Board of Trustees of Passaic County Community College.
Pascrell was elected to the New Jersey General Assembly in 1987, eventually rising to the position of Minority Leader Pro Tempore. He won his seat in 1987 with 34% of the vote. He won re-election in 1989 (36%), 1991 (29%), 1993 (31%), and 1995 (33%). He served alongside John Girgenti for his first two.terms and Alfred E. Steele for the remaining four. In May 1990, Pascrell was one of four candidates in Paterson's mayoral election with the winner to take the office that Frank Graves, who had served since 1982, had vacated upon his death two months before the election. Pascrell won with 51% of the vote in the nonpartisan election and was re-elected in 1994 with 46% of the vote against his eventual successor Martin Barnes, a Republican from the Third Ward, and former Mayor Thomas C. Rooney, Jr., a Democrat from the Sixth Ward. Pascrell served as mayor of Paterson while he also served as an assemblyman. For years this was a common practice for New Jersey officeholders, but new laws have rescinded the practice.
In 1996, Pascrell ran for New Jersey's 8th congressional district and defeated Republican incumbent Bill Martini 51%-48%, a margin of 6,249 votes. Pascrell was likely helped by Bill Clinton's easy victory in New Jersey in that year's presidential election. After that, he never won re-election with less than 62% of the vote. After redistricting, Pascrell's home was placed in the newly redrawn New Jersey's 9th congressional district. Fellow Democrat U.S. Congressman Steve Rothman decided to move into the 9th and challenge Pascrell in the primary. Rothman was placed in a Republican-leaning district against Republican Scott Garrett. Rothman represented 53% of the new 9th, while 43% of the new 9th district is from Pascrell's old 8th CD. Pascrell defeated Rothman in the Democratic primary on June 5, 31,435 to 19,947, capturing approximately 61.1% of the vote. In the general election, he defeated Rabbi Shmuley Boteach by 73.6% to 25.4%.
Rothman's candidacy in the 2012 primary race reportedly devolved into a highly competitive proxy war over Israel, between the state’s pro-Israel community and a growing constituency of Arab voters who have accused a sitting congressman of putting Israel’s interests before America’s. Aref Assaf, president of the New Jersey-based American Arab Forum, published a column in the Newark Star Ledger titled, “Rothman is Israel’s Man in District 9” in which he wrote: “As total and blind support becomes the only reason for choosing Rothman, voters who do not view the elections in this prism will need to take notice. Loyalty to a foreign flag is not loyalty to America’s.” Arabic-language campaign posters produced by Pascrell supporters reportedly encouraged the “Arab diaspora community” to elect Pascrell, “the friend of the Arabs.” The poster touted the race as “the most important election in the history of the [Arab American] community.” Susan Rosenbluth, publisher of the New Jersey-based Jewish Voice and Opinion wrote that "a number of Arab-American constituents have come out with outrageous attacks on Rothman," and commented that "I haven’t heard a dual loyalty charge for years.” She also sharply criticized Pascrell for remaining silent and refusing to condemn the charges of dual loyalty.
Pascrell is the first New Jerseyan to serve on the House Committee on Ways and Means in 10 years. On October 10, 2002, Pascrell was among the 81 Democratic House members who voted in favor of authorizing the invasion of Iraq. Pascrell was one of the original members of the Homeland Security Committee, eventually rising to the post of ranking member on the Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee. He has a particular interest in fire safety, and authored the bill that created the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, which gives federal grants directly to all fire departments, including volunteer fire departments, which he calls "the forgotten part of the public safety equation". He was also a member of the House Transportation Committee, where he worked to modernize roads, bridges, airports and mass transit systems. He has secured funding for reconstructing various dangerous roads and bridges throughout New Jersey, including bringing attention to the Route 46 corridor. In addition, he has helped craft legislation to renew federal surface transportation programs, providing funding toward New Jersey Transit. The new legislation tackled projects of rail expansion between Passaic and Bergen counties, bridge construction throughout Route 46, and the establishment of a bike-pedestrian path in South Orange.
Pascrell is an Italian American and has been outspoken about the representation of Italian-Americans in the media regarding what he sees as negative stereotypes in shows such as HBO's The Sopranos. His Italian heritage was questioned by comedian Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report, who alleged in an interview that Pascrell could not truly be of Italian descent because Italian surnames must end with a vowel. Pressed by Colbert for an example of an Italian surname ending in a consonant, Pascrell responded with "Sole". During Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's 2009 Working on a Dream Tour, Pascrell asked for investigations by the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice into the practices of Ticketmaster and TicketsNow in regard to sales of tickets to the tour's New Jersey shows. Pascrell subsequently introduced proposed federal legislation, titled the "BOSS ACT" (Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing), which would require primary ticket sellers to disclose how many tickets were being held back from sale, prohibit ticket brokers from buying tickets during the first 48 hours on sale, and prohibit primary ticket sellers, promoters, and artists from entering the secondary market. In 2012, problems again arose during the first ticket sales for Springsteen's 2012 Wrecking Ball Tour. Ticketmaster said web traffic was 2.5 times its highest level for the year. Shows were selling out within minutes and many tickets at much higher prices appeared on resale websites such as StubHub less than an hour after the onsale time. Pascrell again responded saying he would reintroduce the BOSS ACT bill to Congress.
After the death of a young boy in his district who returned to playing football without having fully recovered from a concussion sustained earlier in the season in October 2008, Pascrell introduced the Concussion Treatment and Care Tools Act (the ConTACT Act), which has received the endorsements of the National Football League, the National Football League Players Association, and the Brain Injury Association of America. The legislation brings together a conference of experts to produce a consensus set of guidelines for the treatment and care of concussions for middle and high school students. It also provides funding for schools' adoption of baseline and post-injury neuropsychological testing technologies. In January 2011, Congressman Pascrell responded to the Tucson shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords by stating, "[t]here's an aura of hate and elected politicians feed it, certain people on Fox News feed it."
On March 12, 2013, Pascrell introduced the Traumatic Brain Injury Reauthorization Act of 2013 (H.R. 1098; 113th Congress), a bill that would reauthorize appropriations for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) projects to reduce the incidence of traumatic brain injury and projects related to track and monitor traumatic brain injuries. He is the Co-founder and Co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, which was founded in 2001 and now includes more than a hundred members of Congress.