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Rep. Tom Malinowski. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

State GOP hits Malinowski on background check amendment vote

By Nikita Biryukov, February 27 2019 7:20 pm

Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) split with his class of New Jersey congresspeople on Wednesday when he voted against an amendment to a gun background check bill that would require Immigration and Customs Enforcement be notified when an immigrant in the country illegally attempts to purchase a firearm.

“Tom Malinowski is way out of step with the people of North Jersey. Today, he proved to be a part of the ‘Sanctuary State’ culture in New Jersey that is perpetuating a prioritization of coddling illegal immigrants rather than supporting taxpayers and keeping our communities safe,” New Jersey Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt said.

The amendment passed 220-209.

Twenty-six Democrats, including Reps. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair), Andy Kim (D-Marlton), Jeff Van Drew (D-Middle) and Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) backed the amendment.

Malinowski was the only freshman in New Jersey’s House delegation to move against the amendment, though he was joined in doing so by Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing), Albio Sires (D-West New York), Donald Norcross (D-Camden), Donald Payne Jr. (D-Newark), Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-Long Branch).

Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton), New Jersey’s lone remaining Republican congressman backed the measure.

“It’s common sense that Law Enforcement is at its best when agencies are communicating and sharing data,” Steinhardt said. “This was obvious and important enough to earn the support of New Jersey Congressional Democrats Van Drew, Kim, Gottheimer and Sherrill, and, of course, Republican Chris Smith.”

Malinowski’s office did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the congressman’s amendment vote made at 6:13 p.m.

Though Malinowski voted in favor of the final version of the bill, which expands background checks for gun purchases, his vote on the amendment could prove to be an issue as Republicans begin attempting to recruit his 2020 challenger in earnest.

The seventh congressional district isn’t safely Democratic, and Malinowski won election there in 2018 by five points. Former Rep. Leonard Lance won by 11 points in 2016.

Still, it’s too early to tell what, if any, effect immigration issues will have on Malinowski’s 2020 race.

“It’s time to end the NRA’s choke-hold on Congress and apply nationwide the gun violence prevention measures that have saved lives in states like New Jersey,” Malinowski said. “No child should be afraid to go to school, and Americans from all walks of life: students, parents, law enforcement, veterans, and law-abiding gun owners, are demanding that we act to keep our kids safe.”

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