SHARKHUNTERS Salutes Veterans
Senator ALPHONS d’AMATO (4908-1996)
United States Senator, New York
Senator Al contacted Sharkhunters in 1996 with questions pertaining to certain German U-Boats and their history, and he became a Member at that time.
|D’Amato drew the nickname Senator Pothole for his delivery of “constituent services,” helping citizens with their individual cases. While some New Yorkers meant the nickname as a pejorative, many others saw it as a positive affirmation of his attention to getting things done.
Senator D’Amato also holds the record for the second and seventh longest filibusters ever recorded in the United States Senate. He is remembered for his unique and rather comical filibusters. In 1986, a filibuster he conducted against a military bill lasted 23 hours, 30 minutes and he was known for reading the District of Columbia phone book during a filibuster. In 1992, D’Amato filibustered a bill that would have caused the loss of 750 jobs in upstate New York by singing “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)”.
Senator D’Amato is also remembered for presenting a poster of a “Taxasaurus Rex,” which he then stabbed with an oversized pencil.
He was a member of the President’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism (PCAST), which was set up in September 1989 to review and report on aviation security policy in light of the sabotage of Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988.
While he was in office, he was chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, and was a member of the Senate Finance Committee. As a member of the former, he became a leading critic of the Clinton administration regarding the Whitewater scandal, and during 1995 and 1996 chaired the hearings-heavy Senate Special Whitewater Committee.
D’Amato was very influential in New York Republican politics, and widely considered the “boss” of the state GOP during his Senate years. For example, he played a leading role in recruiting George Pataki and securing him the Republican nomination in the gubernatorial race of 1994.
D’Amato was known for being fairly conservative, a reflection of strongly conservative Nassau County and Long Island but remains very popular among some of New York’s liberal voters. He strongly supported the conservative positions of his party on “law and order” issues such as capital punishment and harsh penalties for drug offenses. On some issues, he agreed with the opposition: in 1993, D’Amato was one of only three Republicans to vote in favor of allowing gays to serve openly in the U.S. military. In 1996, he was among the minority of Republicans to vote to extend federal protections against employment discrimination to gays and lesbians.
In the 1998 election, d‘Amato was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign over socially liberal Democratic Congressman Charles Schumer. On labor issues too, he frequently sided with Democrats. His 55% to 45% 1998 loss was attributed to a lack of support among moderate voters in New York City, site of opponent Charles Schumer’s US Congressional district. His loss was also partially attributed to reports arising from D’Amato’s use of the term “putzhead” (a Yiddish vulgarity) to refer to Schumer.