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Bill Pascrell
Bill pascrell 375.jpg
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey
Assumed office
January 3, 1997
Preceded by William J. Martini
Constituency 8th district (1997–2013)
9th district (2013–present)
Mayor of Paterson
In office
July 1, 1990 – January 3, 1997
Preceded by Anna Dopirak
Succeeded by Martin Barnes
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly
from the 35th district
In office
January 12, 1988 – January 3, 1997
Preceded by Vincent O. Pellecchia
Succeeded by Nellie Pou
Personal details
William James Pascrell Jr.

(1937-01-25) January 25, 1937 (age 87)
Paterson, New Jersey, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Elsie Botto
(m. 1962)
Children 3
Education Fordham University (BA, MA)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Branch/service  United States Army
Years of service 1958–1967
Rank Sergeant

William James Pascrell Jr. /pæsˈkrɛl/ PASS-krel (born January 25, 1937) is an American politician who is the U.S. representative for NJ's 9th congressional district, having served in the House since 1997. A member of the Democratic Party and a native of Paterson, New Jersey, Pascrell represented NJ's 8th congressional district until 2013; due to the federally mandated redistricting after the 2010 United States census, which resulted in New Jersey losing a seat in the House, Pascrell's home city was placed in the 9th district, which he has represented since. Before his election to the House of Representatives, Pascrell served in the New Jersey General Assembly for four terms beginning in 1988, and was elected to two terms as mayor of Paterson.

Early life, education, and academic career

The grandson of Italian immigrants, Pascrell was born in Paterson, New Jersey, the son of Roffie J. (née Loffredo) and William James Pascrell (originally Pascrelli). 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. He served in the United States Army and United States Army reserves. Pascrell attended Fordham University in New York City and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in philosophy.

Pascrell spent 12 years as a high school teacher in Paramus, New Jersey, teaching several subjects including psychology, before being hired as a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He was appointed to the Paterson Board of Education, and served as president of the board. He also served on Passaic County Community College's board of trustees.

Early political career

State Assembly

Pascrell first ran for elected office in 1987, when he ran for the New Jersey General Assembly seat being vacated by the retiring Vincent O. Pellecchia. He and incumbent Assemblyman John Girgenti retained the District 35 seats for the Democrats by defeating Republican nominees Martin Barnes, a Paterson city councilman, and Robert Angele, who worked in the city housing administration. Pascrell received 34% of the vote, enough to earn him the seat.

Pascrell and Girgenti were reelected in 1989 over Republicans Joaquin Calcines, Jr. and Jose Moore, with Pascrell polling at 36%.

After District 35 State Senator Frank Graves died suddenly in 1990, Girgenti was appointed to serve in Graves's place and a special election was called to fill the Assembly seat alongside Pascrell. Hawthorne's Frank Catania, a Republican, defeated Cyril Yannarelli, whom the Democrats appointed to the seat, in the special election that November.

In 1991 Pascrell and Eli Burgos ran for the Assembly on the Democratic ticket. The Republican ticket saw a returning Barnes look to take Pascrell's seat alongside Catania and shift the district to the GOP. In a tight race, the incumbents retained their seats with Pascrell as the leading vote-getter, with 29%.

In 1993, Pascrell and Reverend Alfred E. Steele of Paterson attempted to put Democrats in full control of District 35 again while Catania ran with Paterson's Harvey Nutter to try to win the seats for the Republicans. Once again, the incumbents won, with Pascrell as the leading vote-getter, at 31%. Catania had a tighter race with Steele.

Pascrell and Steele broke through as a pair and won control of the Assembly seats for the Democrats in 1995. Facing Donald Hayden, who was appointed to the seat after Catania was selected to serve in a state administrative position, and Dennis Gonzalez in the general election, both emerged with significant victories and Pascrell once again topped out at 33%. He eventually became Minority Leader Pro Tempore.

Pascrell resigned from the General Assembly in January 1997 in order to take his seat in the House of Representatives; his replacement was Nellie Pou.

Mayor of Paterson

While serving in the state legislature, Pascrell stayed active in city politics. In March 1990, a new opportunity arose.

Pascrell's colleague Frank Graves died suddenly from a massive heart attack on March 5. This created two vacancies that needed to be filled, and the State Senate seat Graves occupied was filled by John Girgenti. While in the Senate, Graves was elected mayor of Paterson twice, in 1982 and 1986. At the time of his death, he was preparing to run for a third term. Pascrell declared his candidacy for the seat shortly thereafter.

Pascrell faced City Council President Reverend Albert P. Rowe, Passaic County Freeholder Michael Adamo, and former councilman and police officer Roy Griffin in the nonpartisan election. Pascrell won with 51.4% of the vote and was sworn in on July 1 of that year, while keeping his seat in the General Assembly.

Pascrell ran for a second term in 1994 and faced two challengers, his former District 35 rival Martin Barnes and long-standing Sixth Ward councilman and former mayor Tom Rooney. Pascrell won the three-way contest with 46% of the vote.

Pascrell resigned as mayor on January 3, 1997, in order to take his Congressional seat. The city council appointed Barnes to replace him.

U.S. House of Representatives


In 1996, Pascrell ran for the Democratic nomination in New Jersey's Eighth Congressional District. The seat had been reliably Democratic for many years; it had been in Democratic hands without interruption from 1961 to 1995, with Robert A. Roe serving from 1969 until 1993 But in the 1994 Republican Revolution, Republican Bill Martini, a Clifton councilman and Passaic County freeholder, defeated Roe's successor Herbert Klein. Pascrell won the nomination and the seat, defeating the incumbent with 51% of the vote. The district reverted to form, and Pascrell never faced another contest nearly that close; winning reelection seven more times with at least 62% of the vote.


After redistricting, Pascrell's home was placed in the newly redrawn 9th district. Fellow Democratic congressman Steve Rothman decided to move into the reconfigured 9th and challenge Pascrell in the primary. Rothman's home in Fair Lawn had been drawn into a Republican-leaning district against Republican Scott Garrett. Geographically, the new district was more Rothman's district than Pascrell's. Rothman had represented 53% of the new 9th, while Pascrell had represented 43%. Despite this, Pascrell defeated Rothman in the June 5 Democratic primary, 31,435 to 19,947, capturing about 61% of the vote.

In the general election, he faced Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Pascrell raised more money than any other congressional candidate in the nation in 2012, $2.6 million, 10x what Boteach raised. Pascrell won in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, where Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 3-to-1, by a margin of 73.6% to 25.4%.


Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (6326813142)
Pascrell in 2011

On October 10, 2002, Pascrell was among 81 Democratic House members to vote to authorize 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".

Pascrell 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 New Jersey roads and bridges, including the Route 46 corridor. In addition, he has helped craft legislation to renew federal surface transportation programs, providing funding for New Jersey Transit. The legislation concerned 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 Italian Americans' stereotypical representation 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 the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the practices of Ticketmaster and TicketsNow in regard to sales of tickets to the tour's New Jersey shows. He subsequently introduced federal legislation, the "BOSS ACT" (Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing), to 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 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 said he would reintroduce the BOSS ACT.

In October 2008, 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, Pascrell introduced the Concussion Treatment and Care Tools Act (ConTACT), which has been endorsed by the National Football League, the National Football League Players Association, and the Brain Injury Association of America. ConTACT brings together a conference of experts to produce a 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.

P20211025AS-1528 (51761370876)
Pascrell delivers remarks on the Build Back Better Agenda in October 2021 in Kearny, New Jersey.

In January 2011, in response to the shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords, Pascrell said, "[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 100 members of Congress.

On December 11, 2020, Pascrell, citing the 14th Amendment (§3, specifically), called for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not to seat Republicans who signed an amicus curiae brief supporting Texas v. Pennsylvania plaintiff Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General. This proposal would not seat nearly two-thirds of the Republican representatives of the incoming 117th United States Congress. Pascrell said, "The text of the 14th Amendment expressly forbids Members of Congress from engaging in rebellion against the United States. Trying to overturn a democratic election and install a dictator seems like a pretty clear example of that."

..... He voted for the legislation again in 2003, when it was signed into law by President George W. Bush. ..... After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, he wrote that "it is not the place for a judge or politician to interfere with a woman’s bodily decision." .....

Pascrell voted with President Joe Biden's stated position 100% of the time in the 117th Congress, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis.

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

  • Law Enforcement Caucus (co-chair)
  • Congressional Fire Services Caucus (co-chair)
  • Congressional History Caucus (co-chair)
  • Congressional Home Protection Caucus (co-chair)
  • House Textile Caucus (co-chair)
  • House Baltic Caucus
  • Congressional Arts Caucus'
  • U.S.-Japan Caucus
  • Blue Collar Caucus

Party leadership

  • Steering and Policy Committee, Region IX representative (New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C.)

Electoral history

New Jersey's 8th congressional district and New Jersey's 9th congressional district: Results 1996–2022
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1996 Bill Pascrell Jr. 98,861 51% William J. Martini 92,609 48% Jeffrey M. Levine Independent 1,621 1%
1998 81,068 62% Matthew J. Kirnan 46,289 35% 804 *
2000 134,074 67% Anthony Fusco Jr. 60,606 30% Joseph A. Fortunato 4,469 2% *
2002 88,101 Jared Silverman 40,318 31% Joseph A. Fortunato Green 3,400 3%
2004 152,001 69% George Ajjan 62,747 29% 4,072 2%
2006 97,568 71% Jose M. Sandoval 39,053 28% Lou Jasikoff Libertarian 1,018 1%
2008 155,111 72% Roland Straten 62,239 27% Derek DeMarco 1,487
2010 88,478 63% 51,023 36% Raymond Giangrosso Independent 1,707 1%
2012 162,822 73% Shmuley Boteach 55,091 25% E. David Smith 1,138 0.52%
2014 82,498 68% Dierdre G. Paul 36,246 30% Nestor Montilla 1,715 1%
2016 162,642 69% Hector L. Castillo 65,376 28% Diego Rivera Libertarian 3,327 1%
2018 140,832 70% Eric P. Fisher 57,854 29% Claudio Belusic 1,730
2020 203,674 66% Billy Prempeh 98,629 32% Chris Auriemma Independent 7,239 2%
2022 82,457 55% Billy Prempeh 65,365 43% Lea Sherman Socialist Workers 1,108 0.7% *

*Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 1998, Stephen Spinosa received 762 votes; Bernard George received 722 votes; Thomas Paine Caslander received 625 votes; and José L. Aravena received 318 votes. In 2000, Viji Sargis received 983 votes. In 2022, Sean Armstrong received 1,054 votes.

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