This week's guest: DCCC chairwoman Nita Lowey

Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey serves as the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party's lead fundraising arm for Democratic members of the House.  She represents parts of Westchester County, Queens, and the Bronx in the United States House of Representatives. 

Now serving her sixth term, Lowey was first elected to the House in 1988.

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Lowey has developed a reputation as an extremely effective, committed legislator with a substantial record of accomplishment. Congressional Quarterly cited her as one of the 50 most effective Members of Congress, saying she "maneuvers skillfully through the appropriations process."

Lowey is a proponent of educational opportunity, health care reform and biomedical research, stricter gun control and public safety laws, environmental protections, women's issues, a leading international role for the United States, and federal funding for public television and the arts.

Lowey is the author of legislation to provide federal resources for school construction and renovation nationwide, and has worked to expand federal afterschool programs so that children receive educational instruction and adult supervision after regular school hours. Lowey is a strong proponent of rigorous educational standards and is fighting to make college tuition tax deductible for New York families.

Lowey has emerged as one of the Appropriations Committee's leading advocates of increased federal investments in biomedical research on diseases like cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer's at the National Institutes of Health.  She has worked to double spending on breast cancer research since 1992 and has helped increase overall research at the NIH.

Lowey has authored a bill to ensure that women in managed care plans have direct access to their Ob-Gyns, and is a strong supporter of legislation to guarantee that doctors and patients -- not insurance companies -- make decisions about appropriate care.  She won passage of her bill to ensure that insurance companies cover prescription contraceptives for federal employees.

Lowey is a strong supporter of the Brady Law and the Assault Weapons Ban, and is now working to ban the sale of handguns.  In 1995 Lowey wrote the nation's "Zero Tolerance" law, which makes it illegal for minors to drive with any alcohol in their system. She is also the author of legislation to revoke the license of repeat drunk drivers and establish a national DWI standard of .08 BAC.

In 1990, Lowey sponsored a bill establishing a special Environmental Protection Agency office for Long Island Sound. Since then she has obtained federal funding for local clean-up efforts and has written legislation to improve the area's wastewater treatment infrastructure. Lowey has taken a key role in securing federal support to protect the New York City watershed and has been a leader in preserving strong environmental laws like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

As former chair of the Congressional Women's Caucus and current chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, Lowey has been widely recognized for her leadership on women's issues.  Lowey established the Congressional Advisory Panel to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy to encourage abstinence and responsibility among teens. She has also fought against domestic violence, securing record increases in federal funding for battered women's shelters.

Lowey is a proponent of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, and advocates annual U.S. aid to Israel on the Appropriations Committee.  She is a longtime champion of human rights, and has taken a key role in fighting for democracy and justice in Northern Ireland, Indonesia, and around the world.

When GOP leaders threatened the Public Broadcasting System with elimination, Lowey invited Muppets, Ernie and Bert, to a Congressional hearing to make their case for public television.  She has been equally stalwart in her defense of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and has been named to serve on the prestigious National Council for the Arts.

Lowey served as Assistant Secretary of State for the State of New York before being elected to Congress.

Lowey was born in the Bronx, graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, where she was senior class president, and received a bachelor's degree from Mount Holyoke College.

She and husband Stephen have three children and five grandchildren.