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Posts by Michael Scotto
Nov 19th - 4:42 pm
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand picked up a key backer in her fight to remove the chain of command from the prosecution of military sexual assaults.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he will support the amendment when it comes up for a vote, which could happen as early as Wednesday.
“I’m going to support Gilibrand,” Reid said. “People can disagree with my reasoning but you know that’s the substance, what I’ve looked at.”
Gillibrand needs sixty votes to get her amendment added to the underlying defense bill. With Reid, Gillibrand now has fifty, including herself. Gillibrand says that privately more than half the Senate is with her, and she estimates that about a quarter of the Senate is still undecided. It’s likely Reid’s support will encourage more Senators to get off the sidelines and support Gillibrand.
Earlier Tuesday, Gillibrand picked up the backing of Nevada Sen. Dean Heller.
New York’s junior senator has made combating military sexual assaults a cornerstone of her agenda. The fight has put her up against Pentagon brass and even members of her own party.
Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill is pushing colleagues to support a competing measure that would make some reforms, but still leave the decision about whether to prosecute those who are accused of committing sexual assaults up to military officers.
Nov 12th - 11:04 pm
Add Rep. Bill Owens to the growing list of lawmakers who want President Obama to put an end to the recent wave of insurance policy cancellations.
The North Country Democrat, who is no doubt thinking about his tough re-election battle next year, announced that he will vote with Republicans on a legislative fix that would allow people to keep the insurance they currently have.
“I intend to vote for H.R. 3350 on Friday,” Owens told me in a statement. “While I am not convinced this legislation fully solves the problems consumers are facing, it is a step in the right direction.”
The recent news that people have been dropped from insurance plans that don’t meet the enhanced Obamacare requirements has not only been a public relations nightmare for the White House, but it has put the President’s integrity on the line.
In the lead-up to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama repeatedly promised Americans that they would be able to keep the coverage they had and liked.
The screw-up led to a rare Presidential apology last week.
But Republicans, on a mission to kill the President’s health care law, want much more. They quickly drafted legislation to be voted on Friday that would allow insurers to continue selling their old plans.
Adding to the pressure on the White House is Bill Clinton. The former President, in an interview released Tuesday, urged the President to stop the cancellations.
The White House opposes the House plan, but is said to be working on its own fix.
It’s unclear how many Democrats will vote with Republicans on Friday. Back in July, 22 Democrats, including swing district Reps. Dan Maffei, Sean Patrick Maloney and Owens, supported a Republican plan to delay the implementation of the individual mandate.
The plan went nowhere in the Senate. However, the political pressure now is far more intense than it was just a few months ago.
Nov 1st - 7:16 pm
The new task force assembled by President Obama to look into climate change preparedness doesn’t include a single New Yorker – despite the fact that the Empire State was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
The 26-member panel is made up of state and local officials, including California Governor Jerry Brown and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
President Obama created the panel as part of an executive order issued Friday. The task force is charged with advising the Federal Government on how it can help localities that are already feeling the impacts of climate change.
Both Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo have made dealing with extreme weather a top priority.
Bloomberg, of course, is out of office in eight weeks, so it makes sense that he wouldn’t be asked to participate.
As for Cuomo, we reached out to the governor’s office to see if he was approached or even interested in serving on the panel.
The White House tells me they assembled the group, in part, after reaching out to the National Governors Association.
“We asked NGA and additional organizations to seek nominations,” a White House official told me. “The task force was selected from those who were nominated or nominated themselves.”
Oct 31st - 11:40 am
As Liz reported in the memo earlier today, Rep. Chris Gibson is pivoting to the left and signing onto a federal bill that would ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
A spokesperson for the Hudson Valley Republican tells me that Gibson decided to become a co-sponsor of The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, known as ENDA, after listening to constituents last week.
“Congressman Gibson met with a group of constituents in Washington last week who asked him to consider cosponsorship of ENDA,” said Gibson spokeswoman Stephanie Valle. “The Congressman and our legislative staff reviewed the legislation, and agreed it matched the Congressman’s support for our Bill of Rights and equal protection under the law as well as largely squares with existing New York State law. Given the thousands of bills introduced each Congress, this demonstrates why we welcome meeting with constituents in Washington and New York State. Hearing directly from New Yorkers about their support for legislation gives our office the opportunity to review a particular bill that is important to a constituent and consider it for support.”
The bill is likely to be voted on by the Senate next month, provided it gets enough votes to clear a procedural hurdle. At this point, there is no sign that the Republican-controlled House will ever take it up.
Gibson’s decision to support the bill comes as he prepares for a 2014 battle against Democrat Sean Eldridge, who is gay and married to Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.
“Supporting ENDA is a step in the right direction, but unfortunately Congressman Gibson has a failed record when it comes to ensuring equal protection under the law for all New Yorkers,” said Morgan Hook, a spokesperson for Eldridge. “He was a defender of the military’s discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy,’ and he voted to support federal discrimination under DOMA. More than two years after New York State passed the freedom to marry, Congressman Gibson continues to oppose marriage equality for committed same-sex couples. Sean Eldridge has been a leader in the fight for equal treatment under the law for all families. Our region deserves a member of Congress who will lead on issues of fairness and equal protection the law – not someone who will catch-up when it’s politically advantageous.”
Despite being considered one of the more liberal Republicans in the House, Gibson has a weak record on gay rights, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Gibson does support civil unions.
How do other Republicans facing strong Democratic challengers feel about the bill? We reached out to Reps. Michael Grimm and Tom Reed, but have not heard back from their spokespeople.
Update: Gibson decided to support the bill after meeting with five members of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, known as PFLAG, in his Capitol Hill office last week. The meeting came about after Dale Bernstein, a Ghent resident and national board member of PFLAG, reached out to Gibson shortly after the government shut down in early October.
“[Gibson] jumped on the meeting right away,” said Bernstein, describing how Gibson’s staff quickly put the wheels in motion for a face-to-face sit down with the congressman. “He was engaged. He was interested.”
Bernstein had previously met with Gibson’s staff, but that was two years ago, before Gibson had to face a well-heeled opponent in Sean Eldridge. Bernstein, however, said Eldridge and the 2014 election did not come up at all during the meeting.
“I did not get the sense that it was political,” said Bernstein.
The meeting lasted an hour and touched on other gay rights issues, including same-sex marriage. Gibson supports only civil unions, but Bernstein said the Republican congressman listened to their pitch.
“I hope his position is evolving,” said Bernstein, who has a gay son who recently got married.
Bernstein left the meeting unsure of what Gibson’s ultimate position on ENDA would be, adding “I was taken by surprise that he signed on as a co-sponsor that quickly.”
Now that he is behind the bill, Bernstein, undecided about next year’s election, said she is open to voting for him.
“He has moved way up on the list,” said Bernstein.
Oct 23rd - 5:02 pm
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is breaking with his party and calling on President Obama to hold someone accountable for the failed rollout of a key website for the Affordable Care Act.
The Hudson Valley Democrat’s comments mirror those by his Republican colleagues. The website, launched on October First, allows people in 36 states, though not New York, to shop for insurance ahead of next year’s mandate that individuals carry health coverage. It has been riddled with technical glitches that may undermine that President’s signature achievement.
“I want people to stop sugar coating it and focus on making this policy work,” said Maloney. “And making the policy work for families in the Hudson Valley is a lot more important than defending against criticism or playing a political game or protecting someone’s job.”
Maloney first made the comments during a telephone town hall meeting yesterday. He represents a swing district that Republicans are trying to reclaim.
When I asked Maloney whether Heath and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius should be asked to resign, he responded: “That’s up to the President, but I believe there needs to be accountability. And I believe making the policy work is more important than protecting someone’s job”
Maloney is calling on the Administration to extend the open enrollment period for every month the problems remain unfixed. Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire was the first Democrat to call for such an action. Publicly, nearly every Democrat is backing the Administration’s position to stay the course. Earlier this year, Maloney supported a House Republican bill that would delay the law’s individual mandate.
Practically speaking, the botched rollout hasn’t impacted New York all that much, since the state is operating its own health insurance exchange website. But Maloney’s comments will likely help him politically and insulate him from attacks to be launched by his likely 2014 Republican rival, Nan Hayworth.
Oct 17th - 7:33 pm
With the government shutdown finally over, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney says Tea Party members need to either get a reality check or get kicked out of office.
“The extremists in the Tea Party have shown again and again that they are actually willing to harm our economic recovery because they cannot accept commonsense solutions,” said Maloney, one day after the mess finally came to an end. “It’s time to grow up and it’s time to accept responsibilities that come with serving the people.”
Maloney, however, is aware that the current makeup of congressional maps makes it unlikely that many of the lawmakers behind the movement that sparked the shutdown will find themselves out of a job after 2014.
“The most irresponsible players right now feel are those who feel the least pressure from the electorate,” said Maloney
That reality has many in Washington concerned that going forward Republicans will find little incentive to collaborate with Democrats.
“I don’t believe it has,” Maloney said in response to a question about whether the shutdown has broken the fever. “And I hate to sound pessimistic about this but I want to be realistic about this. I think people need to send a message to Washington that we are sick and tired of this and we have to stop electing people who cannot work with people they disagree with.”
While Maloney didn’t single out any one politician, his knock on the Tea Party might as well have been aimed at his potential rival, former Republican Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, whom Maloney ousted last year.
Though the former lawmaker attempted at times to portray herself as a solutions-oriented centrist, she was linked to the Tea Party wave that swept a number of lawmakers into office in 2010. Hayworth is an outspoken critic of the Affordable Care, and over the last few weeks she has used her Facebook page as a forum to obliquely weigh in on the shutdown, which was precipitated by a fight over President Obama’s health care law.
This is what she posted on Facebook on day two of the government shutdown:
“New Yorkers have had enough of Washington’s partisan theatrics–funding the government and replacing Obamacare are mutually compatible and essential,” said Hayworth. “It’s time for the House majority to pass its alternative to Obamacare. It’s also time for everyone to negotiate in good faith. Hardworking taxpayers deserve nothing less.”
This is what she said on Wednesday, the day the government reached a deal to end the shutdown and allow the Treasury to borrow more money:
“Not defaulting on the debt will simply allow some breathing room to tackle the disastrous spending that led us to this point to begin with,” Hayworth posted on Facebook. “It’s like getting the okay for a loan to pay off your debts–and then you have to stop the bills from piling up or you’ll just end up in the hole again. For Washington politicians that means both sides using this opportunity to cooperate respectfully–not waste time on petty political games–to get the job done! The American people deserve no less.”
Oct 16th - 11:36 pm
The mess in Washington is finally over.
So how did the New York delegation vote Wednesday night?
Every single member who was on Capitol Hill supported the bipartisan plan, except for two Republicans: Reps. Chris Collins and Tom Reed.
Before the vote, Collins told us that he objected to the bill because it pushed the can down the road and didn’t immediately tackle the country’s problems, a point he reiterated in a statement after the vote.
“Tonight, the House voted to increase our national debt by over a $300 billion without achieving a single spending cut,” said Collins. “I could not, in good faith, vote in favor of this legislation which only adds billions to the credit card bill our children will be left to pay.”
Reed, who faces a tough election battle next year against Democrat Martha Robertson, said the measure just kept the “status quo.”
“The 23rd district of New York did not send me to Washington to support the status quo of government by crisis,” said Reed. “This country needs a long-term solution that stops the endless cycle of crises and kicking the can down the road. Enough is enough. We cannot keep borrowing to cover uncontrolled spending without jeopardizing our children and grandchildren’s future. No one wants a default but that is exactly what will happen sooner or later if we do not deal with this problem. I will work tirelessly in support of a long-term solution before the next crisis dates looming just three months away. Our country deserves real solutions and I offer my ‘Honest Proposal.’”
Robertson was quick to blast Reed’s vote, releasing this statement Wednesday night:
“Congressman Tom Reed’s refusal to support the bi-partisan resolution to reopen the government and avoid a default shows that he is willing to tow the Tea Party line at all costs, even when the well-being of Veterans, senior citizens, and the entire economy is at risk,” said Robertson. “Not only did Congressman Reed vote four times to shut down the government and vote 17 times to refuse to reopen the government, he has also repeatedly rejected the efforts of his fellow Republicans in both the Senate and House to avoid a default and reopen the government. Although Congressman Reed tries to pose as a moderate while in New York, his actions tell a different story. His obstructionism in the face of this crisis is reckless and irresponsible, and shows his willingness to put the extreme ideology of the Tea Party ahead of the U.S. economy and his constituents.”
Republican Reps. Peter King and Richard Hanna voted “yes” on the plan, as did Reps. Michael Grimm and Chris Gibson, both of whom face tough elections next year.
Until today, Grimm had voted with Republican leadership on all the GOP funding bills leading up to the shutdown – a record that Grimm’s 2014 opponent, Domenic Recchia, is trying to exploit.
“Thank God Congress finally came to its senses and passed a bill that allows us to avert defaulting on our nation’s debt, which would have been catastrophic,” said Recchia.
“While I’m relieved that we have this resolution—looking at this deal, it seems pointless that this shutdown and battle on the brink of economic disaster carried on for 16 days and irresponsibly cost our nation billions of dollars.
Michael Grimm could have chosen to end this shutdown and be a part of the solution over the past 16 days—in fact, he had 16 opportunities to vote for a clean CR, which would have done just that. But, he chose not to lead—he chose to follow the Tea Party down its reckless path and in doing so, he chose his party over the people of this district. In Congress, I’ll be a leader who fights to put the people of this district first, not a political agenda.”
Rep. Gibson, who faces a fierce battle against millionaire Sean Eldridge, voted “yes” on this plan, after supporting all but one of the GOP’s government funding bills that precipitated the shutdown.
“I think it’s really important, at this moment, the government will be up in running, that we pay our bills, that we not default, all the negative consequences,” said Gibson prior to the vote. “So it requires concessions on all sides, including me.”
Eldridge blasted Gibson’s record hours before the vote took place.
“Congressman Gibson claims that he never wanted the shutdown to happen, but unfortunately his rhetoric does not match his record,” said Eldridge. “He voted again and again with his colleagues to shut down the government, and after the shutdown, he refused to support a clean resolution that would have reopened the government sooner, despite the fact that dozens of his Republican colleagues supported such a resolution.”
Oct 11th - 3:04 pm
Rep. Charles Rangel says Sen. Ted Cruz’s visit to the White House Friday is an indication that Democrats are willing to do anything to reopen the government.
“That just shows how great our government is that we’ll just let anybody in the White House,” said Rangel following a closed-door meeting of House Democrats. “If we are willing to let Cruz get to the White House, we’re willing to do anything to open the government and raise the debt ceiling.
Cruz and his fellow Republican Senators sat down with the President today to discuss a way out of the government shutdown that is now in it’s eleventh day. The Texas Senator is the architect of the defund Obamacare movement, which Democrats blame for sparking the shutdown and a possible default.
Oct 10th - 2:17 pm
Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) emerged from a closed-door meeting this morning skeptical of a proposal to temporarily raise the debt ceiling.
The idea, proposed by House Republican leadership, would raise the debt limit for six weeks, staving off a default that economists say would devastate the economy.
The proposal, however, would not reopen the government, but instead set the stage for negotiations to take place between Democrats and Republicans.
“It’s another concern I have,” said Reed, referring to the government remaining closed. “This stop gap measure, and you’re only dealing with the debt ceiling, you’re not dealing with the continuing resolution. That’s why I believe the better approach is to look at this from a bigger play, a longer term play. And I know the clock is ticking, but, you know what, at least it makes us move in the right direction in my opinion.”
It’s unclear if the White House will go along with the proposal either, but the initial response from the Obama Administration was not a complete dismissal.
“The President is happy that cooler heads, at least, seem to be prevailing in the House,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
Carney, however, also indicated that the Administration would not negotiate on a longer term budget deal until the House agreed to a clean funding resolution that would reopen the government.
That seems off the table from House leadership, which is painting the debt ceiling proposal as a compromise and a way to reach the Administration half way.
Oct 9th - 7:29 pm
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is holding an event tonight in Washington for some 2014 congressional hopefuls, including Domenic Recchia and Martha Robertson.
The topic? The government shutdown, of course.
The event is for members of the DCCC’s Jumpstart Program, which aims to give campaign help to candidates running in swing districts.
An aide to the DCCC said:
“Our candidates will join members of Congress at a private dinner to discuss this reckless shutdown and the damage that House Republicans are inflicting on the American people, as well as discuss reasonable solutions.”
Rep. Steve Israel, the chair of the DCCC, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, were spotted going into the dinner at Washington’s Liason Hotel.
Recchia is challenging Rep. Michael Grimm. Robertson is running against Rep. Tom Reed. Both Democrats have blasted the Republican incumbents for the government shutdown.
Tickets to the event cost upwards of $5,000 – a sign that fundraisers don’t stop when the government does.
Update: The DCCC informs me that the fundraiser portion of the event was canceled. It was only a dinner with candidates and members of Congress.