Carolyn Maloney has represented parts of Manhattan’s East Side, Queens, Brooklyn and Roosevelt Island since 1993.
This interview with Ms. Maloney was conducted by the editorial board of The New York Times on Aug. 1.
Read the board’s endorsement for the Democratic congressional primary for New York’s 12th District here.
Jyoti Thottam: So, just to begin. I know none of us know what the midterms will look like in the end. But we are looking at the possibility of a Republican-controlled Congress after this year. What do you think you would like to pursue, like a big idea, on a bipartisan basis?
Well, may I say that the internal polls are showing that we’re neck-and-neck with them, which is great news. If I could just share, briefly, that I announced for Congress in 1992, when the Casey decision came out, restricting Roe. And I’m feeling the same. I challenged — I was with Bella Abzug and Geraldine Ferraro, they were attacking the Supreme Court and [George H.W.] Bush — and I announced for Congress.
I never thought I could beat a 14-year incumbent Republican. But I did. And it was because of the spirit of the electorate that were so angry at them putting restrictions on Roe. Now they’re not putting restrictions. They’re bulldozing it into the ground.
I’ve never seen such a downward turn of rights for women. And any person who’s thinking when they see those three Supreme Court decisions, I believe is going to go out and vote Democratic. So I don’t concede that we are going to lose.
But I will say that, since I’ve been in Congress, half the time I’ve been working under Republican leadership, where we had Republican presidents, unfortunately. So it was very hard. But even during that time I was able to be successful in securing over $10 million in federal funds for infrastructure projects in my district alone.
It was an incredible effort to get the Second Avenue subway built. It took me 18 years to get the thing built. But during that time, Republican presidents agreed for the spending, which is what you had to get during that time. And that’s why the building trades, over 20 different unions, have endorsed me for bringing the money back, even under Republican administrations.
I passed a lot of bills. I passed a lot of bills and have more that I want to pass. And many of them passed during Republican presidents. The Women’s Museum on the Mall, I was trying to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. I thought it would be confidence-building. It’d be easy to do. It took me something like 15 years to get that bill passed, that put a museum that celebrates the contributions of women.
I believe that women cannot be empowered if you don’t even recognize them. I thought it was just a museum on the Mall. There’s no museum in the whole United States dedicated to the achievements of women. And that’s one that I passed on to them.
The Credit Card Bill of Rights, I got through the committee and onto the floor for a Democratic vote. President Obama ran on it.
So I got it through the House with a Republican deal going. When President Obama got elected he championed it, and we got it through the Senate. And this bill alone saves consumers over $17 billion a year. And this is the consumer credit security bureau that works to tell consumers what’s going on. They document that this has saved consumers $16 billion a year. That’s a lot of money. I call it the Maloney Stimulus Package.
Jyoti Thottam: Mara?
Mara Gay: Thank you.
And may I say that I’m building on this? Just this last week, I passed a bill called the Overdraft Bill. This builds on the work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s help, and pointing out the need for it and endorsing all of this work. But we got it out of committee, which is quite something, with all the financial services fighting it.
And I would say it’s a social justice issue, because it really is pointed toward the poorest people in our communities. They exploit them with overdraft fees that they can’t afford. This cuts down on abusive, negligent tricks that they do to drive overdraft fees up.
Jyoti Thottam: Mara has a question for you.
Mara Gay: Yeah, Congresswoman, sorry. We have a lot of questions to get to. New Yorkers more and more are being priced out of your district. What would you do in Congress to build more housing fast?
Well, first of all, I would work to preserve the housing that we already have. Because there is a constant assault by developers to take over that housing. And I would say public housing, which I think has been a great success — we have over 300,000 families living in it. When I was on the City Council, the waiting list was 700,000 people to get into public housing.
[The Times was not able to confirm the size of the waiting list for a NYCHA apartment in the 1980s and early 1990s. Currently, more than 250,000 families are on a wait list.]
Under the de Blasio administration, which, I would not expect this type of activity, they were trying to sell off the open spaces in public housing for market-level housing. We had to fight that. We had to go to court. We had to stop it.
They tried to take a playground in one of my developments.
Mara Gay: Are you talking about the RAD program, Congresswoman?
No, no, I’m talking about, he was taking — he had a developer to take Stanley Isaacs. That’s on roughly 96th Street in Manhattan. And he had a developer to take Cooper Houses, which is a huge development in Brooklyn, and take the public area around it and —
Mara Gay: The infill program —
Yeah, that thing —
Mara Gay: Understood.
So that was something to combat. I’m very proud that in the Build Back Better bill, we had secured the delegation $30 billion for public housing. That was all that Greg Ross had asked for. So it would have been enough to repair everything. Unfortunately, it did not pass.
We did get several millions, I think about $27 million, for roofs of public housing, to preserve that. One of my most proud accomplishments recently was I brought two health care centers, vaccine centers, to public housing, to two of the most underserved areas [that] had the most deaths, Astoria Houses and Queensbridge Houses. Queensbridge has a permanent health care center there five days a week, primarily for vaccines, and testing and treatment. But then everything else before — if you need a hospital, you have to go.
But also, Astoria Houses. I had it for two days a week. I was going to expand it to five. And then I got redistricted out.
Mara Gay: Thank you. Thank you. Go ahead, Jyoti.
Can I say that we put also $550 billion in for the development of housing. This was something championed by Maxine Waters and the Financial Services Committee, on which I serve. Unfortunately, that was a cutout. We did get the tax credit for affordable housing. We are not doing enough.
I would say that affordable housing is one of the biggest challenges that New York City has. So we need to have new ways to do it. I have also championed the 202 program. This is funding for senior housing. There’s a tremendous need for it.
And I have built seven senior housing developments in the district that I represent. The list is there. The locations are there, where I worked with developers, the private sector, federal government to have the federal funding and subsidies for seven new units. And we’re working on another one on Steinway in Queens — again, not in my district.
Jyoti Thottam: So if you just talk briefly about, again, looking forward, what do you think Democrats should do, can do, to protect democracy? We know you have a long and distinguished record. But what do you think, going forward, Democrats should do?
Well, I think that we have two bills that we need to pass. Regretfully, the Republicans have rolled back up some of the protections that Martin Luther King and, really, President Johnson put in place. We have something called Interim One, which would restore those protections and voting rights. And then we have another one that has other ones.
To me, the most troubling thing that I’ve seen in Congress was the peaceful transfer of power, which I thought was a cornerstone, rock hard right in our country. To see it violated, and to see what happened on Jan. 6, an insurrection against — I never thought I would see what we saw. That’s what you saw in third-world countries, not the great democracy.
So protecting voting rights, protecting the right to vote. And it’s hard to do when everybody lies.
Trump talks about the Big Lie. The Big Lie is him. It’s him out there lying about it over and over and over again. I had a hearing on the — this ninja company [Cyber Ninjas] was given the right to run — this very interesting — the right to run the election in Arizona.
And the Trump people were saying that it was stolen, it was a bad thing, bad this, bad that. So I held a hearing on it. And we had Republicans come in. And they were real Republicans. They would say, I founded the Republican Youth Movement when I was in college, and blah, blah, blah. I’m a Republican. But I was an election official. That election was totally honest.
And they came in, Republican election officials, and testified how all of the allegations in Arizona were untrue. They were proud of the election. It wasn’t what they wanted. They were for Trump. But they were proud of their work on having an honest election.
We had whistle-blowers from the top of the Republican Party coming in, vouching. They were offended that their election had been called stolen when it wasn’t.
Patrick Healy: Congresswoman —
And then I thought, Hey, this is —
Jyoti Thottam: Patrick has something —
I’ve got to give you the crescendo. So then we have the end of the hearing. I said, well, it’s settled. They all testified. And all the Republicans say: No, it was stolen. It was stolen. So how do you deal with people who just lie like that?
I think the Jan. 6 Committee’s done a great job. They’re coming back in September. And I think it is going to have an impact on the election, I hope. Sorry for interfering, but I wanted to make the point that, still, they stood there and testified after hearing reams of facts that the election was stolen.
Patrick Healy: Yes, thank you. Do you think Democratic elected officials are out of step with Democratic voters on immigration, on L.G.B.T.Q. rights, on any other issue, just as you hear Democratic elected officials talking and then you hear from voters about where they’re at, on any issue?
I would say that Democrats are very in tune on a woman’s right to choose, on L.G.B.T.Q.+ —
Patrick Healy: But what are they out of step on?
And I think Democrats are supportive of immigration reform. I think that it is one of the hardest places to work, because the Republicans are adamantly opposed to it, viciously opposed to it.
Patrick Healy: Is there anything that Democratic elected officials, you think, are out of step with voters on?
If you want to talk immigration, I think we should have a path to citizenship for DACA and T.P.S., and that we should move forward. And if I can briefly say, I had a bill that I thought was great. It would make a path, and make citizens out of 16 young people who lost their parents on 9/11.
They were undocumented. Their parents were killed as Americans. They were outstanding kids. I want to tell you the Republicans told me: Hey, we’ll grant them their path to citizenship. You have to prove that you know them.
We did dossiers this high on all 16 of them. They still wouldn’t move the bill. We had to do it through an agreement with a Republican administration. We finally saved them. But I never could pass that bill.
I just say that to show how hard it is to move it. I think that —
Patrick Healy: OK, Eleanor has the next question. Thanks.
Eleanor Randolph: So, Congresswoman, we have five yes-or-no questions. And we’ve asked people not to elaborate, just to say yes or no. So the first one is, do you think we should expand the Supreme Court?
Eleanor Randolph: Do you think we should end the filibuster?
Eleanor Randolph: Should there be term limits for members of Congress?
Eleanor Randolph: Should there be an age limit for members of Congress?
Members of Congress have a term limit. It’s called an election every two years. We have a term limit. No one else has to run.
Eleanor Randolph: So that’s a no? Is that a no?
Yeah, we have a term limit. We have to run for election. It’s difficult.
Eleanor Randolph: Should President Biden run again?
Off the record, he’s not running again.
Jyoti Thottam: Not off the record. On the record.
On the record? No, he should not run again.
Jyoti Thottam: OK, thank you. So, briefly, do you think there should be an upper limit on how much money Congress should authorize to spend on support for Ukraine? And do you think that continued funding should be subject to any conditions? Or should it be just whatever is needed?
Well, I think all funding is subject to a condition, because every time you allocate, there are conditions. It has to be voted on.
I believe Ukraine is fighting for democracy and freedom. And we should support them. History has taught when you have a country that — an aggressor that comes in and is grabbing property in a democracy, as Russia is — that you have to confront it. You have to push back.
I did pass a Ukrainian bill. Zelensky and his wife addressed Congress. Zelensky was very forceful. He was by video. And he made the statement, he said, every dollar going to Russia is drenched in the blood of the Ukrainian people. Close the loopholes.
I was very inspired. I went back. I looked for loopholes. I found one.
We have $645 billion that is private, taxpayer money, that we send out in contracts every year. And I put in a bill that said: You can contract with the United States or with Russia. You can’t contract with both. In other words, none of this money should go to Russia.
And many, many companies cooperated and are really divested of their holdings in Russia, to support our country and the Ukrainians. But there’s still people that are doing business in Ukraine. I got that bill passed through the House of Representatives. I’m proud of that bill. And I hope it helps.
Nick Fox: Other than the provisions of the recent climate deal, what measures do you think the United States should do to meet its commitments on climate change?
I am so excited about the Inflation Reduction Bill and the climate monies that are in it. It’s the most that we have ever had for climate. And it includes a bill of mine.
As you know, I passed a big reform bill. Biden signed it into law. It was on the whole reform of the Postal Service. But very importantly, they had just let a huge contract [go] to gas guzzlers, of replacing the entire fleet, hundreds of millions of dollars. And I said, why are they doing that when we can go electric?
Everybody said I was crazy. We had an investigation of the contract. They said it was an honest contract. Give up, Maloney. It’s going to happen.
I held hearings on it, looking at ways to save money, looking at their analysis. Their analysis showed that going to electric would save money. We got them to 40 percent electric.
This new bill that — the agreement has come out in, has $3 billion in it, which is part of one of the efforts we were pushing in my Oversight Committee. It will move the entire fleet. What is transformational about this? You then use the charging stations of the postal offices that are all across the country, like upstate New York — not in New York City. But upstate New York, they have a lot of land around it.
You can charge the postal fleet at night. You can have the public come in. And you can move the whole country to electric. These studies show that 70 percent of the pollution and toxins that is hurting our environment comes from fossil fuels. And I had the first hearing calling in all of the heads of the fossil fuel companies, showing documents that they knew about climate change.
They lied about it. They put out disinformation. They even put books out about it to teachers, which was particularly offensive to me. They did all of this stuff. And we got them to go on record saying: It does cause climate change. We did lie about it. And now we want to help. But we haven’t seen how they’ve helped.
But anyway, that, I think, was a very major, important step forward.
Mara Gay: Thank you. Could you please name one further action that you believe Congress could take in the next session on gun violence?
On gun violence, first, I have to say that [Ed] Markey and I passed the bill allowing us to study gun violence. And we funded it at $50 million a year since then. It shows you the power of the N.R.A., that they had legislation that said you cannot even study gun violence.
I think there’s so many important ones. I think that if you want to really — we [the House] now just banned assault weapons. And already they’re attacking it, Second Amendment. I would look at something that is not the Second Amendment. I would look at three different areas I think we could pass.
Mara Gay: Just one.
Well, I’ve got to give you more.
Mara Gay: You’ve got to give me one.
Oh, I can give you three, can’t I? Because guns are so important. No. 1, I have a bill in requiring them to have liability insurance. They are very much opposed to that. I have gotten death threats from it, really. They get very upset about that.
But we have liability insurance for cars. Guns are far more dangerous. Another way is to tax, just like we did cigarettes, to tax the assault weapons. Make them so expensive that no one can afford to buy them.
I think that another one that can be done, that I will be working on personally, is I have all — two major gun manufacturers come in. One we had to subpoena because he wouldn’t cooperate. And we had tapes from people that had lost their loved ones. And they asked them: What are you doing?
What are you doing to hold your companies accountable for the deaths from these AR-15s? We documented they went and made $1.7 billion over 10 years, mainly on these AR-15s, which are the weapon of choice of these young men.
They had disastrous marketing techniques. But they all said: We don’t have any responsibility. We’re not going to do anything. But we are going to work to make them be responsible for their products, to report on what they are doing and how many of them are killing people.
For example, we require the car industry, if there is an accident, they’re supposed to document what caused that accident. And then we work to make those cars safer. With the gun industry, they don’t want any responsibility for anything.
But we hold the drug companies responsible, other manufacturers responsible for their products. They should be responsible for their products and start maintaining records on how many are killed.
Kathleen Kingsbury: Mara, why don’t we move to the lightning round.
Kathleen Kingsbury: Congresswoman, thank you so much for being here. We have five minutes left with you. And —
Wow, that went fast.
Kathleen Kingsbury: If you could just keep your answers as short as possible, we’d appreciate it.
Mara Gay: So this is a lightning round. It’s a little pop quiz for you. First question is, how does Plan B work?
Well, Plan B is the morning-after pill. It’s not a medicated abortion. But it will prevent pregnancy.
Mara Gay: How does it do that in the body?
In the body, it keeps it from being implanted in the body.
Mara Gay: It works by preventing ovulation.
Mara Gay: Do you own a gun, Congresswoman?
Mara Gay: Have you ever fired a gun?
Have I ever fired a gun? Yes, I have.
Mara Gay: Where?
On a firing gun range in upstate Adirondacks. There was a gun range. And I was there. And I fired a gun.
Mara Gay: About when was this?
Oh, it was about 20 years ago.
Mara Gay: OK. And not since then?
Mara Gay: What is the average age of a member of Congress?
It’s hard to say. We have many young people coming in. And I don’t know. The average age, I would guess, is 40.
Mara Gay: Fifty-eight. What about for senators?
For senators, it’s much higher. It’s probably 70, 60.
Mara Gay: Sixty-four. Please name a member of Congress, dead or alive, whom you most admire and may emulate yourself after if you are re-elected to serve.
Wow, that’s an interesting question. I would say that New York is so famous for the women it has sent to Congress, and for being the home for the women’s-rights movement and the Stonewall gay-rights movement.
And there are so many extraordinary women members of Congress. My two mentors were Bella Abzug and Geraldine Ferraro. And I love them both. I have their photographs in my office. They taught me a great deal. And they accomplished a great deal —
Mara Gay: Thank you.
Not only for New York, but for women in general.
Mara Gay: What is your favorite restaurant in the district?
Well, because of Covid, I am not going to restaurants, to tell you the truth. But if I had to name one, I guess it’s the one that’s closest to my home, where I go to get takeout. And that’s called Island. I just work all the time. So I go and get takeout and bring it home. And —
Mara Gay: Fair enough.
And I’m usually in meetings.
Kathleen Kingsbury: Thank you, Congresswoman. You’ve been in Congress for about 30 years now. Could you talk a little bit about one or two examples of how you think your seniority benefits your constituents?
Yes. I would say seniority and experience is an asset, particularly in a time of crisis as we have now, with these three Supreme Court decisions that have to be reversed. As chair of the Oversight Committee, the American Rescue Plan, which was critically important, went through my district, particularly for the funding for states, cities, tribes and small counties. And I believe the bill was roughly $350 billion, and New York City got $5.8 billion.
I did one change that the former mayor couldn’t stop thanking me enough for. And that was, I had the money go directly to New York City and the other small cities and counties. They all thanked me. Because when it went to the governor, the governor then could take that money and redirect it elsewhere. So that one change, I think, brought billions to the City of New York.
As a former teacher, the teachers were telling me they’ve never seen so much money. And one of my dreams was always to expand 4K and 3K. We now have the money to do all of that for the first time in our great city. And I’m proud of that.
It also brought money for Covid vaccines, to help keep our small businesses open. We were getting ready, if you remember, before that bill passed, we were getting ready to close down lines and times of the M.T.A. providing services, which would have made it hard for us to recover.
The mayor, remember, was announcing layoffs all through the city. That money, getting that money to the city, as chairman, I was able to direct it to make sure it got there, to oversee it, and to be there. What do I say? I’ll give another example.
Nick Fox: Can I ask you a question?
Nick Fox: You’ve spoken sympathetically about concerns linking vaccines and autism. With vaccine opposition leading to the deaths of thousands of Americans from Covid, do you regret taking those positions?
Yes, I do. I support vaccines. I’m vaccined. I support the science behind it.
I am the only member in Congress in New York, probably in the entire country, to have brought two vaccine centers and health care centers to the housing developments that I represent. And I would say that accomplishments speak louder than words. So I am proud of the accomplishments that I have had.
And don’t take my word for it. Two independent rating agencies have rated my work in Congress. I’ve been repeatedly rated the first, second or third most effective member of Congress by the committee on effective lawmaking. They rated me last year as the third most effective.
The so-called GovTrack rated me as the second most effective in terms of accomplishments, in terms of helping people and getting things done. They also tracked my votes. Out of 18,000 votes, they rated me the 33rd most liberal progressive member, and Mr. Nadler, the 30th.
Mara Gay: OK, I’m sorry. I have to interrupt you so we can get through the rest of these questions. I apologize.
Mara Gay: You have opposed — speaking of the district — you’ve opposed the building of a new blood center, which is a key piece of health infrastructure for the entire city, especially on sickle cell anemia, which affects many people in these NYCHA developments you’ve been talking about.
In 2016, you opposed a plan to install bike lanes on East 84th and 85th streets. Last month, a Citi Bike rider was killed by a tractor-trailer on one of those very blocks. So the question is, do you have any regrets here? And I just wonder, with NIMBYism a concern among many New Yorkers, how can voters trust that you would put aside the concerns of a few to take hard decisions that benefit the greater good?
Well, first of all, I was a member of City Council for 10 years. And I was the first woman to give birth while on the City Council, the first woman to represent my district. And I did zoning all the time. And now I’m a member of Congress. And I really don’t take positions unless my members of the City Council request me.
And I was requested by then Keith Powers and Ben Kallos to take the position on the blood center. I was not deeply involved in it. I believe the objection was that it gave a tax break for a real estate development that is going to be apartments, not the blood center.
I think the blood center was only three or four or five —
Mara Gay: It was not going to be apartments. It’s going to be more research facilities within that building.
OK, but they thought — the blood center itself, I think, was only taking four or five stories, if I — I don’t remember that.
Mara Gay: Yes.
But anyway, that was that. And I don’t know why I took a position on 84th Street, except that maybe a council member requested it, or a church, or a school. And it is a City Council issue. They are working on it.
I am working on bringing money to the City of New York. I don’t think that any other member of Congress on the New York Delegation has brought more money to the City of New York. I can document. And it’s documented there, $10 billion.
Everything from the Second Avenue subway to the East Side connector to the connector on 63rd Street to Queens, to the L train, a modernization, to the resiliency monies. I’m very proud of going to the governor and, really, the M.T.A., to get the money when the other governors were handing it back. And we grabbed it. And we got money to straighten out the tracks going between — on what is called Sunnyside Yard. That was $300 million.
And one of my goals is to have high-speed rail between New York and Boston. I think it would be a wonderful economic development asset for our great city. And again, I’d say that actions speak louder than words.
Jyoti Thottam: Katie had a question for you.
And achievements speak louder than words.
Kathleen Kingsbury: I hope we could end by wrapping it up, by talking about what you see as the most substantive differentiation between you and Representative Nadler.
I would say the most substantive difference between us, I think, as I said, we vote the right way. I think it’s the ratings that I receive for actually getting things done. I think it’s this report of 100 accomplishments that would not have happened, probably, without my participation in Congress.
I think one thing, I’m a prolific legislator. I do want to mention one bill that I think would be very helpful to the City of New York. I named it after Michelle Go, who was pushed in front of the train, the Asian woman who was so promising. And I was very disturbed by it.
Actually, I read The New York Times, and you wrote a story that said that Mr. Simon, who pushed her, had — there was even messages from a psychiatrist or a doctor saying he was going to push a woman in front of a train if he didn’t get medical treatment.
I call the hospitals. Why weren’t they letting people in, the doctors? There’s a law that passed in 1962 that says the federal government will only reimburse Medicaid for facilities of 16 or less. And I put a bill in to lift that so that Bellevue, so that Metropolitan Hospital, all of these major hospitals can take — and they have the free beds. They could have taken Mr. Simon.
So I think one of the problems with the safety in the streets is a mental health problem. They’ve abolished the mental health facilities. But they didn’t replace it with anything. And many people have problems, and we need to get them treatment.
This would be federal money coming to help solve it. That’s just another example of trying to work. I have seven gun safety bills in. The census — I have a bill that — the Republicans tried to manipulate the census on reapportionment, and in so many ways. I’ve taken them to the Supreme Court twice.
And I have a bill that would strengthen the independence of the Census Bureau so that they can’t manipulate it. They’re better at manipulating back-room deals than we are. But legislation could cure that.
I have a list of roughly 10 or 20 that I want to do in the next session. And I can’t do it unless I have the opportunity. I also think that, more than ever, we need strong women in Congress that can counter this right-wing, anti-woman, anti-environment, anti-gun-safety, that has the experience and know-how of how to get things done and has a record of accomplishing.
Don’t listen to what they say they’re going to do. What have they done to make the lives of New Yorkers healthier, better, safer, more prosperous? I have a record of bringing money back to my district. I have a record of passing bills that are deemed important. And I have ideas of how to build on those bills.
I think experience and knowledge is an asset. And in our system of government, seniority is an asset, because our advancement in many things is based on seniority. When I first went to Congress, there was not one woman who had a picture on the wall. It was all men, because women hadn’t been in Congress. And women hadn’t been chairs of committees.
I’m one of 18 women in history that has chaired a committee and had that opportunity to use that power to advance women’s rights. My first hearing — I want to share this. I think it’s important. My first hearing was on abortion access and Missouri, and how they were cutting it off.
[Ms. Maloney and Rep. Zoe Lofgren became the 17th and 18th women in the House to chair a Congressional committee. The first to do so was Rep. Mae Ella Nolan of California, in 1923. Dozens have served as committee chairs since. In the 117th Congress alone, 11 women serve as committee chairs (seven in the House and four in the Senate).]
When it looked like Dobbs was going to pass, I had another one on abortion rights and got members of Congress to share their stories. They shared their heartbreaking abortion stories with the public and raised the need themselves of how it is so disastrous to women’s health.
And then, after Dobbs, I had the first hearing. So I’ve worked in government a long time. I worked for the State Legislature. I worked for powerful men. There were no women there when I was working. I’m usually the only woman in the room.
And when they close the door and they start making the deals on what they’re going to cut, oh, let’s get rid of insurance covering birth control, it’s the women’s issues that go on the floor. Believe me, when women are in the room, the conversation changes. And women’s priorities are not negotiated away and not cut and stuck under the rug, or thought about first, second or third. It’s thought about first. It makes a difference.
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