Early life, education, and career
Carolyn Jane Bosher was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, on February 19, 1946. She attended Greensboro College. After graduating, she visited New York City in 1970, and decided to stay.
For several years, she worked as a teacher and an administrator for the New York City Board of Education. In 1977, she obtained a job working for the New York State Legislature and held senior staff positions in both the State Assembly and the State Senate. In 1976 she married Clifton Maloney, an investment banker.
New York City Council
Maloney was elected to the New York City Council in 1982, defeating incumbent Robert Rodriguez in a heavily Spanish-speaking district based in East Harlem and parts of the South Bronx. She served as a council member for 10 years. On the council, she served as the first chair of the Committee on Contracts, investigating contracts issued by New York City in sludge and other areas. She authored legislation creating the city’s Vendex program, which established computerized systems tracking information on city contracts and vendors doing business with the city. Maloney also introduced the first measure in New York to recognize domestic partnerships, including those of same-sex couples. She was the first person to give birth while serving as a council member, and the first to offer a comprehensive package of legislation to make day care more available and affordable.
U.S. House of Representatives
In 1992, Maloney ran for Congress in what was then the 14th district. The district had previously been the 15th, represented by 15-year incumbent Bill Green, a progressive Republican. She won with 51% of the vote. The district, nicknamed the “silk stocking district”, had been one of the few in the city in which Republicans usually did well. in fact, they held the seat for all but eight of the 56 years between 1937 and Maloney’s victory. But it had been made significantly friendlier to Democrats by redistricting. The old 15th had been more or less coextensive with the Upper East Side, but the new 14th included Long Island City, portions of the Upper West Side, and a sliver of Brooklyn. Maloney also benefited from Bill Clinton’s strong showing in the district.
The core of Maloney’s district was the Upper East Side, an area with a history of electing moderate Republicans. Their dominance waned throughout the 1990s, and by the early 2000s Democrats dominated every level of government. This was exemplified in 1994 (the year of the Republican Revolution), when a serious challenger to Maloney, Republican City Councilman Charles Millard, lost badly. No Republican has gotten more than 30% of the vote in the district since.
In 2004, Maloney faced a potential Democratic primary challenge from Robert Jereski, a former Green Party – Political candidate and unsuccessful candidate for delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention on the slate of Dennis Kucinich. Jereski opposed the Iraq War while Maloney had initially voted for the resolution to authorize force; she later renounced the war, including at a town hall meeting in her district with antiwar Congressman John Murtha, where her comments made headlines. Jereski failed to qualify for the ballot because his petition was found to have invalid signatures, leaving him four short of the 1,250 required.
In December 2008, Maloney hired a public-relations firm to help bolster her efforts to be named by Governor David Paterson as Hillary Clinton’s successor in the U.S. Senate. She toured parts of the state but was overshadowed by Caroline Kennedy’s promotional tour for the same seat. Maloney interviewed with Paterson for 55 minutes. Public opinion polls placed Maloney’s support for the Senate seat in the single digits, trailing the front-runner, then-State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, although her bid was endorsed by the National Organization for Women Political Action Committee, the Feminist Majority Political Action Committee, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, and other columnists and editorial boards.
On January 23, 2009, Paterson chose Representative Kirsten Gillibrand. Since Gillibrand is from upstate, many in NYC’s political circles urged Maloney to primary Gillibrand in 2010. Despite leading Gillibrand in the polls, she instead ran to retain her congressional seat. A decade later, Maloney was the sole member of Congress to endorse Gillibrand’s 2020 presidential campaign.
In the Democratic primary for Congress on September 14, 2010, Maloney defeated a well-funded opponent, Reshma Saujani, a 34-year-old Indian American hedge fund lawyer, by 62 percentage points. That night, Saujani said, “I’m definitely running again”, but three months later announced publicly that she would not challenge Maloney again.
In 2012 Maloney’s Republican challenger was Christopher Wright, who took a leave of absence from J. P. Morgan to campaign. Maloney won with 80.9% of the vote, a margin of over 120,000 votes.
In 2014, Maloney defeated Republican nominee Nicholas Di Iorio, a financial contractor with Pfizer, with 80% of the vote.
In the 2016 Democratic primary, Maloney defeated Pete Lindner with 90.1% of the vote. She defeated Republican Robert Ardini in the general election with 83.2% of the vote.
In the 2018 Democratic primary, Maloney defeated progressive candidate Suraj Patel with 59.6% of the vote. In the general election she defeated Republican nominee Eliot Rabin with 86.4% of the vote.
In the 2020 Democratic primary, Patel challenged Maloney again, as did progressive Democrat Lauren Ashcraft and housing activist Peter Harrison. Erica Vladimer, a co-founder of New York State’s Sexual Harassment Working Group, withdrew from the race before the primary. By July 29, 2020, it was revealed that Maloney led Patel by about 4% and 3,700 votes. On August 4, 2020, local election officials declared Maloney the winner of the primary.
With redistricting in 2022, the process consolidated parts of the 12th and 10th Congressional districts that forced Maloney to face fellow incumbent Jerry Nadler in the Democratic primary. In August, Maloney lost the primary to Nadler by thirty points.
In 2009, the National Journal’s annual ranking placed Maloney as the 114th-most liberal (or 314th-most conservative) member of Congress, with more liberal scores on foreign policy than on economic and social policy. Her score of 75.5 ranked her as modestly more liberal than the New York Congressional delegation as a whole.
In 2011, a Daily News survey found that Maloney ranked first among New York’s 28 representatives for activity with 36 proposed bills, resolutions, and amendments. In the 2013 legislative session, Govtrack.us scored her third among House Democrats for “Leadership,” third among all representatives for “Powerful Co-sponsors,” third highest in the New York delegation for “Working with the Senate,” and fifth highest among all representatives for “Bills Sponsored.” During the 2014 election cycle, the New York Daily News ran a story that said, “Maloney has proposed more legislation than any other House member, according to records”, and called her “James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, giving compensation to Ground Zero workers who have fallen ill, as big a bill for the New York area as any in the last decade.”
For the 2015 legislative session, Govtrack.us scored Maloney first for “Leadership” among House Democrats, based on sponsoring the most bills. It scored her second among all representatives for having the most co-sponsors, second for “Working with the Senate” and fourth among House Democrats for having powerful cosponsors. She was ranked in the top 10% of all representatives for bills introduced (“Maloney introduced 26 bills and resolutions in 2015”).
As a U.S. Representative, Maloney was a superdelegate at presidential conventions. In the 2016 election cycle she was an early supporter of former Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Clinton. According to her 2018 GovTrack Report card Maloney ranked in the 80th percentile among House members for getting bicameral support for the bills she has introduced. she ranked sixth among House Democrats.
In 2019, Govtrack.us ranked Maloney as the top legislative leader in the House. This analysis ranked her second among all representatives for the most co-sponsors on her bills, in the top 5% for the number of bills introduced, and in the top 10% for getting her bills out of committee.
For her tenure as chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee in the 116th Congress, Maloney earned an “A” grade from the nonpartisan Lugar Center’s Congressional Oversight Hearing Index.
In 2021 the Center for Effective Lawmaking ranked Maloney the third-most effective lawmaker in the House.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Maloney advocated for federal help for New York’s recovery and security efforts. Her efforts prompted Wayne Barrett of the Village Voice to write that Maloney was “like a tiger in the House on every dollar due New York.”
On February 25, 2019, she introduced her Never Forget the Heroes Act, HR1327 in the 116th Congress—a bill to establish Permanent Authorization of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund Act. The $10.2 billion authorization was signed into law, establishing that both the World Trade Center Health Program and September 11 Victim Compensation are effectively permanent, with the WTCHP authorized to operate until 2090 and the VCF until 2092.
National security issues
After the 9/11 Commission published its findings, Maloney co-founded the bipartisan House 9/11 Commission Caucus and helped write and secure the enactment into law of many of its recommendations to reform the nation’s intelligence agencies. Congressional Quarterly wrote in its annual guide, 2006 Politics in America: “In the 108th Congress, Maloney reached out beyond her usual roles as a liberal gadfly and persistent Bush administration critic, helping win enactment of a sweeping bill to reorganize U.S. intelligence operations.”
Following the Dubai Ports World controversy, Maloney helped secure the passage and enactment of her bill to reform the system for vetting foreign investments in the United States. She has supported Scientology’s “New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project”.
On October 1, 2020, Maloney co-signed a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that condemned Azerbaijan’s offensive operations against the Armenian-populated enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, denounced Turkey’s role in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and criticized “false equivalence between Armenia and Azerbaijan, even as the latter threatens war and refuses to agree to monitoring along the line of contact.”
Maloney, who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee, called on FBI Director Christopher A. Wray to open a probe into social media platform Parler, writing, “The company was founded by John Matze shortly after he traveled in Russia with his wife, who is Russian and whose family reportedly has ties to the Russian government.”
In response to a number of high-profile incidents of gun violence, Maloney sponsored two bills to address the issue. The Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2013 would make gun trafficking a federal crime for the first time and substantially stiffen the penalties for “straw buyers” who knowingly help convicted felons, domestic abusers, the violently mentally ill and others, obtain guns.
In 2014, she joined Senator Ed Markey in sending President Barack Obama a letter asking him to insert $10 million into the budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to resume research on gun violence and “conduct scientific research on the causes and prevention of gun violence.”
In 2022, as chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Maloney held a hearing that examined leading gun manufacturers’ marketing and sales practices.
Maloney introduced a bill in October 2003 intended to enforce transparency in relation to military contracting in Iraq and subject the Coalition Provisional Authority to federal procurement law. In 2008, after reports of corruption among military contractors in both Iraq and Afghanistan, she secured House passage of a further bill to create a database to better monitor all federal contracts, the key provisions of which were adopted into law as part of the defense budget.
In 2010, the Project On Government Oversight, a government watchdog group, presented Maloney with its Good Government Award for her contributions to government transparency and oversight, including her investigations into corruption and mismanagement in the Minerals Management Service and her support of a Federal Contractor Misconduct Database similar to POGO’s.
In 2019, Maloney introduced a bill that would require corporate entities to disclose the identities of beneficial owners to FinCEN, making it harder for them to hide assets and avoid taxes through a series of limited liability companies.
Maloney has taken several actions on health care issues. Her measure to provide Medicare coverage for annual mammograms was included in the Fiscal Year 1998 federal budget. She advocated for providing federal support for medical monitoring and health care for rescue and recovery workers who were exposed to toxic smoke and dust at the Ground Zero site after the 9/11 attacks. Maloney authored the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act and led the fight for years to push for its passage. In 2010 Obama signed the bill into law. It provides $4.3 billion in federal funds to provide 9/11 responders and survivors with treatment and compensation for their injuries. In June 2012, it was announced that the program would be expanded to cover care for a variety of cancers of the lung, trachea, stomach, colon, rectum, liver, bladder, kidney, thyroid and breast.
In 2015 when roughly 33,000 responders and survivors were battling an assortment of ailments, Maloney led the effort to extend the bill permanently. After a prolonged and very public push, a total of $8.5 billion in funding was included in the Omnibus Spending bill that passed in 2015 and extended the life of the monitoring and health insurance coverage for 75 years. In the 111th Congress, Maloney introduced The Breastfeeding Promotion Act to protect breastfeeding in the workplace under civil rights law and make it illegal for women to lose their jobs or otherwise be discriminated against for expressing milk during lunchtime or on breaks. She has advocated for international women’s health and family planning programs supported by the United Nations Population Fund.
A co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Working Group on Parkinson’s Disease, Maloney serves on the board of the Michael Stern Parkinson’s Research Foundation and previously served as an honorary board member of the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation.
Maloney has promoted scientifically discredited claims of a link between vaccines and autism. On several occasions, she has introduced legislation that would direct the federal government to conduct studies into the alleged links between autism and vaccines. In a 2012 congressional hearing, Maloney equated concerns over a link between autism and vaccines to concerns over a link between smoking and cancer. She said that it was “common sense that [smoking] was bad for your health… The same thing seems to be here with the vaccinations.”
Maloney’s views on vaccines changed, and she led efforts to bring COVID-19 vaccine sites to North Brooklyn and western Queens. She partnered with The Floating Hospital and the New York City Housing Authority to establish a modular site to provide COVID-19 testing and vaccination services at Astoria Houses in northwest Queens.
Financial and economic issues
Maloney serves on the Committee on Financial Services and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and is the Ranking Democratic member of the Joint Economic Committee. She previously chaired the Democratic Task Force on Homeland Security. From 2009 to 2011, Maloney chaired the Joint Economic Committee, the first woman to do so.
Maloney was the author of the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights, or the Credit CARD Act of 2009, while serving as chair of the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, in the 110th Congress. A 2014 Social Science Research Network study estimated that since its passage, the CARD Act has saved consumers $11.9 billion per year. Credit card companies fiercely opposed the measure, but it drew praise from editorial boards and consumer advocates. The bill was passed as the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act by both houses of the 111th Congress, prompting Money magazine to dub Maloney the “best friend a credit card user ever had.“ Obama signed the Credit Card Bill of Rights into law in a Rose Garden ceremony Maloney attended on May 22, 2009.
Days after voting against cancellation of a $1 billion, 10-year subsidy plan for U.S. sugar farmers within the 2007 U.S. Farm Bill, Maloney hosted a fundraising event that netted $9,500 in contributions from sugar growers and refiners, according to Federal Election Commission records. Her election attorney, Andrew Tulloch, called the timing of the July 31 fundraiser “pure coincidence.” The bill passed the House by a 282–144 vote. The Sunlight Foundation pointed out that among the 435 members of the House, Maloney has the ninth-highest amount of investment in oil stocks. She received a perfect 100 rating from the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund in 2007, a perfect 100 rating from Environment America in 2008 and a perfect 100 from the League of Conservation Voters in 2008. In 2008, Maloney introduced the Minerals Management Service Improvement Act (HR 7211) as a House companion to Integrity in Offshore Energy Resources Act (S. 3543). The legislation would impose dramatically tougher ethics rules for the Minerals Management Service, which was at the center of a major corruption scandal stemming from its employees’ relationships with oil company representatives.
Women’s, children’s and family issues
Maloney has been active on many other issues involving women, children and families since the beginning of her career. A former co-chair of the House Caucus on Women’s Issues, she authored and helped secure the enactment into law of a measure to provide federal funding to clear the backlog of rape kits for which evidence had been collected, but never entered into law enforcement DNA databases. The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network called it “the most important anti-rape legislation ever considered by Congress”. Maloney’s bill, included in the Justice for All Act of 2005, was named the Debbie Smith Act in honor of Debbie Smith, a rape survivor. The effort to enact the bill was later the subject of a Lifetime Television movie, A Life Interrupted: The Debbie Smith Story, in which Maloney was played by Lynne Adams. Maloney also co-authored and helped secure passage of bipartisan legislation to curb the demand for sex trafficking.
Maloney introduced the Child Care Affordability Act of 2007 to increase access to child care by providing tax credits. Her amendment to a foreign aid bill succeeded in securing $60 million in funding for programs for Afghan women and girls and to help establish an Afghan commission on human rights. She is the chief House sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment. In 2008 and again in 2009, Maloney authored, and secured House passage of, a bill to provide four weeks of paid parental leave to federal employees.
In 2011, Maloney sponsored the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, known as the Campus SaVE Act. It became part of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act of 2013. The measure guarantees counseling, legal assistance, and medical care on campuses for victims of sexual assault, establishes minimum, national standards for schools to follow in responding to allegations of sexual assault and sexual violence, and makes explicit that schools must provide to both the alleged perpetrator and the alleged victim the same rights, including access to advisers, written notifications, as well as appeals processes during campus disciplinary proceedings.
Saying that “for too long, women’s stories have been left out of the telling of our nation’s history”, Maloney began work in the 1990s on establishing a Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum on the National Mall. After years of effort, her bill passed and was signed into law in 2020.
After Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA, Maloney and Jackie Speier introduced a resolution to recognize that the ERA had met all legal requirements to be considered the 28th amendment to the Constitution. In March 2022, Maloney sent U.S. archivist David Ferriero a letter urging him to fulfill his statutory duty and publish the ERA.