Michael Scotto

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Katko Opposes Obamacare Repeal Vote

Rep. John Katko was one of only three Republicans to break with his party and vote against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

The vote Tuesday marked the 56th time the Republican-controlled House voted to scrap Obamacare and the first time freshman Republicans had the chance to go on the record in opposition to the law.

Every other Republican from New York voted for repeal, including Republican Reps. Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin, both of whom took office last month.

After the vote, Katko insisted he still opposes the Affordable Care Act, but said he voted against the repeal because his party didn’t vote to replace the law with anything.

“As I promised to do, I voted against this bill, because we failed to include replacement legislation,” Katko said in a statement. “I am disappointed that the bill taken up by Congress today did not provide a real solution to the rising costs of healthcare, but I will continue to fight for comprehensive, bipartisan healthcare reform for Central New York in Congress.”

Since taking office, Katko has shown he is more willing than Stefanik, another swing district Republican, to oppose his party.

Katko last month joined 25 Republicans in voting against an amendment that would block President Obama from shielding “Dreamers” from deportation.

One main reason for Katko’s independent streak may be because President Obama won his district in 2012 by 16 points. Obama won Stefanik’s district by about six points.

 

UPDATE: Sen. Gillibrand ‘very concerned’ by Silver Allegations

Democrats on Capitol Hill Thursday weren’t calling on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to resign, but they were not rushing to his defense either.

“My standard has always been that if an elected official is found guilty of committing a serious crime they have lost the privilege to serve,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said in a statement. “I am very concerned by these allegations and will let the legal process play out before commenting further.”

Lawmakers called the news of Silver’s arrest “sad” and said it is up to Silver and his colleagues to decide what to do next.

“That is not up to me, that’s his own decision to make.” Rep. Nydia Velazquez told me when asked if Silver should resign. “He has to make that decision based on what he’s facing, and it’s a decision that he will make with his family.”

“I think one is afforded the right of the constitution as innocent until proven guilty,” Rep. Gregory Meeks said. “I think that the body of the assembly will decide what’s best for it. I can’t say what’s best for it. I’m sure that they have met or will be meeting and they’ll decide what’s best.”

The investigation into Silver picked up after Governor Andrew Cuomo abrubtly disbanded his anti-corruption panel, known as the Moreland Commission, last spring

Rep. Kathleen Rice, who was elected in November to Congress, served as co-chair of the panel until January, while she was also serving as Nassau County District Attorney.

“What’s clear here is that the Moreland Commission that Kathleen Rice helped lead engaged in really substantial, important work to help restore the public’s confidence in the integrity of its government,” said Rice’s spokesperson Coleman Lamb. “It’s also clear that the U.S. Attorney’s office is aggressively continuing that work.”

While the arrest was a bombshell, to be sure, on some level, it did not come as a huge surprise to Democrats, given that Silver’s business dealings have long been the source of speculation.

“It’s been a great concern about the outside income and how it was gained,” Rep. Charles Rangel said. “And so I got more calls this morning from members of the assembly asking the same question, where do we go from here. But I really don’t have enough facts to make any political decision until I hear more about what this is about.”

Rangel’s longtime ally Assemblyman Keith Wright has been mentioned as a possible successor to Silver should the longtime Assembly Speaker resign. But the dean of the state’s Congressional delegation wasn’t yet prepared to speculate on whether Silver’s legal troubles might be a boost for his friend.

“I suspect when any leader for one reason or another leaves office, it’s good for whoever has the chance to replace him,” Rangel said. “But this is a bad time to be talking about replacing him when I don’t even know what he’s been charged with.”

Updated: Rep. Steve Israel, late Thursday afternoon, released this statement:

“New Yorkers deserve to be able to trust those who represent them. This is a sad day for Albany, and an unwelcome disruption from the important work that the State government does to grow the economy and create jobs for New Yorkers.”

Moderate Republicans Oppose Immigration Vote

Rep. John Katko bucked House leadership Wednesday on a controversial immigration vote.

The newly sworn-in Republican joined Reps. Chris Gibson, Richard Hanna and Peter King in opposing an effort to block one of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

The amendment, part of a multi-pronged effort to derail the President’s immigration policies, would end Obama’s 2012 executive action that has allowed undocumented immigrants brought here as children, known as Dreamers, to remain in the country without fear of deportation.

A total of 26 House Republicans opposed the measure, perhaps worried about the message the bill would send to swing voters in states with large immigrant populations.

“I disagree with the President’s unilateral approach on this issue,” Katko said in a statement released shortly after the vote. “But I also disagree with members of my party who wish to retroactively punish those who have already come forward under the protection granted by the President. Congress needs to work in a bipartisan way with the President to secure our borders and reform our broken immigration system.”

That sentiment was echoed by Hanna, who said the amendment would uproot the lives of 600,000 young people who have already been granted permission to stay.

Hanna, Gibson and King, however, did support a similar effort back in August to end the Dreamers program.

Reps. Chris Collins, Tom Reed, Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin supported Wednesday’s vote.

All of the state’s Republicans voted to scrap Obama’s executive action, announced in November, that allows millions of other undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation. They also supported the Department of Homeland Security spending bill to which the amendments were attached.

The bill passed the House by a vote 236-191. It is likely moderate Republicans and Democrats in the Senate will vote to strip the immigration amendments out of the bill and then send it back to the House.

 

Israel to Head Up New House Messaging Post

Rep. Steve Israel looked positively giddy Monday afternoon as he handed the reins of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee over to New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Lujan.

“If you think Ben Ray is happy, you have no idea how happy I am,” a smiling Israel said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. “This may be the happiest day in my life.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Israel, who headed up the DCCC for two election cycles, will now serve as chair of policy and communications, a newly created post that will focus on crafting a message for House Democrats to use against the emboldened Republican majority.

“This new position within the Democratic leadership will bring our messaging and our policies – particularly on middle class anxieties – to a new and never before seen level for our caucus,” said Israel, who had been looking to climb the leadership ladder.

The new role is perhaps an indication that Pelosi does not blame Israel for the party’s poor Election Day performance. Those losses, including three in New York, left Republicans with their largest House majority since the 1920s.

Grimm’s Legal Defense Fund Raises $67K

Rep. Michael Grimm’s newly-established legal defense fund reports raising $67,400 last month, nearly triple what Grimm’s campaign raised during the same time period.

Grimm received donations from a mix of individuals, corporations and political action committees. A number of the donors had previously contributed to Grimm’s political campaign.

One donor to the fund was Grimm’s former father-in-law, Jhong U. Kim, who gave the maximum $5,000. Sin ah Kim, who reports living at the same address as Jhong U. Kim, also donated $5,000.

The Air Line Pilots Association PAC and the National Air Traffic Controllers PAC each donated $5,000. Both PACs have been generous contributors to Grimm’s political campaigns.

Grimm got the green light from the House Ethics Committee in early June to create a legal defense fund for legal bills associated with his April indictment.

It’s unclear how much Grimm’s attorney fees are worth, since lawmakers only have to report expenditures. The fund reported spending no money last month.

Full list of donors after the jump: More >

Grimm Hits ‘Grammatically Challenged’ Recchia in Fundraising Email

Rep. Michael Grimm is going after his opponent’s grammar and connections to liberal bogeyman Mayor de Blasio in a scathing fundraising email sent out today.

The missive comes as Grimm tries to jump start a fundraising operation that came to a half after his April indictment on a variety of charges related to a restaurant he owned prior to taking office.

In the email sent out by the Grimm campaign, Frank Aversa, the former First Vice Chair of the Staten Island Republican Party, attacks Democrat Domenic Recchia for allegedly flip-flopping on his pledge not to build low-income housing on Staten Island.

“Domenic Recchia shows himself to to be Bill de Blasio’s puppet already,” reads the first sentence of the email.

Earlier in the week, Recchia told the Observer, “Listen, we’re not building no low-income housing.” Hours later Recchia reportedly backtracked from that comment.

The Grimm campaign called the statement “grammatically challenged,” before saying Recchia “completely caved” after word got back to Mayor de Blasio, who is aggressively trying to build more affordable housing across the five boroughs.

“Obviously, Recchia is deeply uncomfortable opposing de Blasio, his longtime pal,” reads the email. “Which makes sense since Recchia voted with de Blasio over 99% of the time when they were Brooklyn councilmen together.”

Linking the two together makes sense. De Blasio is not the most popular politician on Staten Island. He lost the borough in his otherwise landslide victory last November.

The Recchia campaign, which clobbered Grimm in fundraising last month, brushed off the attack.

“We won’t comment on Congressman Grimm’s desperate and underhanded tactics to try and distract from his indictment,” said Recchia spokeswoman Sarah Weinstein.

 

Israel Considers Grimm Race a Toss Up

Rep. Michael Grimm isn’t running under the best of circumstances, but Washington Democrats think the embattled Staten Island Congressman still has a shot at winning the race.

During a conference call with reporters, Rep. Steve Israel, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, described the race between Grimm and Former Brooklyn City Councilman Domenic Recchia as a “toss up.”

“The conventional wisdom is that that race now is a lean D,” said Israel. “I don’t see it as a lean D. I actually see it as a true toss-up, so that’s going to be a national battleground.”

Analysts like Cook Political Report moved the race to “Lean Democrat” after Grimm was indicted in April on federal fraud charges related to a business he owned prior to taking office.

Since that indictment, Grimm has seen national Republicans abandon him, his campaign manager quit and his fundraising plummet.

According to Federal Election Commission filings released yesterday, Grimm raised less than $24,000 last month. Recchia raised nearly $262,000 during the same time period.

That said, Grimm reported having a little more than $1 million left in the bank at the end of last month, just slightly less than what Recchia had on hand.

Grimm is also well-liked by voters, in part because he lives on Staten Island and not in Brooklyn, which makes up just a small part of the district. That distinction could help him tremendously against Recchia, who lives across the Verrazano in Gravesend.

 

 

 

Updated: Grimm’s Fundraising Tanks

Rep. Michael Grimm’s fundraising has dried up since his April indictment.

According to Federal Election Commission filings released Tuesday, the embattled congressman raised less than $24,000 last month.

He spent just $13,000.

Grimm still has more than $1 million left in the bank, though his legal debt is north of $400,000.

Grimm’s fundraising came to a halt after he was indicted in April on various fraud charges related to a business he owned prior to taking office. That indictment led to his being abandoned by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

In addition to trying to stay in office, Grimm is attempting to raise money to pay off his mounting legal bills. Last month, the House Ethics Committee approved Grimm’s request for a legal defense fund. Grimm is expected to report later this month how much money that fund has been able to raise.

As for who is contributing to Grimm’s political campaign? Here’s the list.

Grimm’s Democratic opponent, Domenic Recchia, is expected to file his fundraising report with the FEC later today.

Update:

Recchia’s numbers are out. The former New York City Councilman raised $261,693 last month, eleven times what Grimm brought in. During that time period, Recchia spent nearly $56,000. He has nearly $1.3 million in the bank.

Update Part Two:

Grimm’s campaign sent us a statement from the congressman, in which he hits Recchia and claims his fundraising is where it needs to be.

“My campaign has been fundraising aggressively for the past year and we are absolutely on track and where we need to be,” said Grimm. “My support is based on my achievements in Congress…from major flood insurance reform that drove down massive premiums to $60 billion in Superstorm Sandy aid. However, my opponent’s funding comes from months of desperate seat shopping among the City’s ultra-liberal elite…first he wanted to be Comptroller, then Brooklyn Borough President, now he thinks Staten Island is his last resort? He’s in for a rude awakening when his entire record is against their interests: from voting to raise property taxes 18.5%, to supporting more tolls to enter Manhattan, to ignoring the people’s will and voting himself a third term in the City Council.”

Rodriguez Endorses Espaillat, His Political Club Stays Neutral

East Harlem Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez made his switch to Adriano Espaillat’s campaign official today.

At an event in his district, Rodriguez formally endorsed Espaillat over Rep. Charlie Rangel in the heated race for the 13th congressional district.

But in an interesting twist, Rodriguez’s home club will not be following suit.

After what was described as a “lively discussion” Wednesday night, the Arturo Schomburg Democratic Club voted to stay out of the race, according to people who attended the meeting.

In 2012, both the club and Rodriguez were behind Rangel.

But things are a lot different this year.

In addition to Rodriguez now being an Espaillat supporter, the club’s president, Nina Saxon, is employed by City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who is also backing the state senator’s bid to unseat Rangel.

Those factors combined with Rangel’s long history in the neighborhood likely made it too complicated for the group to take a stand.

Throughout the campaign, Rangel has been engaged in a bitter battle with Espaillat to shore up East Harlem support. In 2012, the neighborhood was crucial to Rangel’s reelection.

In a sign of how fluid – not to mention contentious – the race is, East Harlem District Leader Peggy Morales switched her endorsement last weekend from Espaillat to Rangel.

Espaillat Supporter Now Backs Rangel

The race to shore up support ahead of this June’s heated Democratic primary for the 13th Congressional District has taken an unexpected turn.

A Charlie Rangel supporter turned Adriano Espaillat booster has announced she is going back to team Rangel.

East Harlem district leader Peggy Morales, who endorsed Espaillat in March after backing Rangel in 2012, tells me that she decided this weekend to rescind her endorsement after she claims the Espaillat team failed to follow through on some promises.

Specifically, Morales says the Espaillat campaign broke their pledge to name her or another East Harlem resident to the congressional candidate’s Committee to Fill Vacancies.

“No respect was being shown,” Morales said, adding that she personally admires Espaillat.

The Espaillat campaign declined to comment.

Though Morales insists neither the Rangel campaign nor anyone supporting it pressured her to switch her endorsement, the decision does come as a surprise. It was less than two months ago that Morales announced she would be backing Espaillat.

At the time, Morales suggested that Rangel wasn’t focusing enough attention on East Harlem.

“We need to get someone who is fresh who is new and who will take the chance and focus a little bit more on the East Harlem community, which in my opinion has been ignored by the Harlem machinery…in favor of Central Harlem,” Morales told DNAinfo in March.

East Harlem proved pivotal to Rangel’s 2012 victory.

But this year, Rangel has had to contend with some high-profile backers going to team Espaillat.

Earlier this year, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito decided to back Espaillat. East Harlem Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez is expected to follow suit as early as this week.

“There is a divide,” Morales said, referring to the split East Harlem support. “It’s not what we prefer.”