Michael Scotto

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Rodriguez to Switch Sides, Endorse Espaillat

Another one of Rep. Charles Rangel’s 2012 supporters is switching sides and endorsing State Senator Adriano Espaillat.

A source tells me that East Harlem Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez plans to formally announce his support for Espaillat next week.

The endorsement is not good news for Rangel, who is is trying to hold onto his seat for a 23rd term.

In 2012, Rangel’s victory in East Harlem proved crucial to his narrowly winning re-election. But back then he had the support of Rodriguez and City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was elevated to speaker earlier this year. Now Rodriguez and Mark-Viverito are in Espaillat’s court.

This week Rangel did win the backing of Former President Bill Clinton and the city’s largest municipal workers union, DC 37.

“Throughout his 23 terms in office, Congressman Rangel has always aided our struggles to protect the jobs of public employees and the safety-net services they provide,” DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts said in a statement. ”Going forward, we know that with him on our side we can go a long way in our fight against income inequality and our fight for workers’ rights, affordable housing, decent wages, public education, immigration reform and more.”

Rangel is locked in a tough primary fight against Espaillat and Harlem Pastor Michael Walrond.

Maloney Outraises Hayworth

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney continued to bring in more campaign cash than his rival Nan Hayworth.

According to the latest filings with the Federal Election Commission, Maloney raised a little more than $472,000 this past quarter. After expenses, Maloney was left with about $1.5 million in the bank.

Hayworth raised nearly $282,000. She has about $663,000 cash on hand.

Maloney and Hayworth are locked in a contentious battle this election season, as Hayworth tries to regain the congressional seat she lost to Maloney in 2012.

Maloney’s haul included a little more than $113,000 from political action committees. About $56,000 of Hayworth’s total contributions came from PACs, including $5,000 from Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Prosperity PAC.”

You can bet the Maloney campaign is going to seize on that fact, as they try to attach Hayworth to Ryan’s budget proposal, which calls for drastic cuts to government spending.

Hayworth did not report loaning her campaign any of her personal fortune in the period ending March 31.



Walrond Gains Support of Early de Blasio backer

Mayor de Blasio has not made an endorsement in the Harlem congressional race, but one of the Mayor’s early backers last year is throwing its support behind one of Congressman Charles Rangel’s opponents.

In a press release, the group New York Communities for Change endorsed Pastor Michael Walrond.

To make its point about being close to de Blasio, the group gave its announcement the not-so-subtle headline: “Powerful Community Group and de Blasio Supporter Endorses Walrond for Congress from the 13th District.”

The organization cited Walrond’s support for de Blasio’s decision to block a powerful charter school from sharing space with a traditional Harlem public school as one of the reasons for its endorsement.

The endorsement comes a day before Walrond will debate Rangel and State Senator Adriano Espaillat for the first time. The event is being held at the Abyssinian Baptist Church.

In recent days, Rangel has been trying to bolster his institutional support, with endorsements from Senator Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.



Gibson Pushes House to Act on Unemployment Benefits

Rep. Chris Gibson is pushing his Republican colleagues in the House to take up legislation that would extend unemployment benefits for five months.

The Senate is expected to pass the bill Monday; House leaders have so far refused to bring the measure to the floor.

As a result of the inaction, Gibson has signed on to a letter, spearheaded by New Jersey Republican Frank LoBiondo, calling on House Speaker John Boehner to put the measure up for a vote.

Late last year, beefed-up unemployment benefits ran out after Democrats and Republicans were unable to reach an agreement on how to extend them, leaving the unemployed with 26 weeks of assistance.

House Republican leaders had initially objected to the extension because it was not paid for. That concern has been addressed in the new Senate bill. Now, leaders say it will be difficult to apply the benefits retroactively.

“If there are issues with backdating this, then let’s take the same Senate bill, with the same pay-fors that I believe will pass the Senate and let’s go forward with it,” Gibson said, referring to his call to apply the benefits in the future.

Meanwhile, Gibson is also breaking with leadership on the Ryan Budget, which is expected to come up for a vote next week.

For the third time in three years, Gibson, who is facing a tough re-election against Democrat Sean Eldridge, says he will vote “no” on a budget he calls a “political document.”

“I’m going to vote no. The thing of it that I find particularly concerning is there’s no need for action on this budget,” Gibson said. “We have a budget. We actually passed it in December. It’s a two-year agreement, a two-year budget framework. What we should be focusing on are the appropriations bills that go with the budget agreement that we passed.”

The plan would slash $5 trillion from government spending over the next decade and overhaul Medicare for future retirees. Democrats are trying to use the plan to paint the Republican party as extreme


NRCC Chairman Eyes New York

The head of the National Republican Congressional Committee is feeling bullish that New York will help the GOP keep and perhaps expand its majority in the House this fall.

“New York, interestingly enough, especially in an off year for Republicans, holds great promise for some pickups,” Rep. Greg Walden said at an event Tuesday at the National Press Club.

Walden seems most excited about regaining the seat being vacated by Rep. Bill Owens, who first won during a 2009 special election marked by nasty GOP infighting. Though Walden said the NRCC isn’t getting involved in the GOP primary between Elise Stefanik and Matt Doheny, he did point out the institutional support Stefanik has already accumulated.

“Elise is very poised, has experience and roots in the district as well – got out early, has a lot of endorsements,” Walden said. “They’re going to sort that out,” referring to Republican primary voters.

The GOP may have reason to feel optimistic about the seat. Aaron Woolf, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s pick, used to split his time between the district and New York City and until very recently had never been to Watertown. Woolf is now facing a primary challenge from Steven Burke.

“The Democrats’ recruit is from Brooklyn,” Walden said, referring to Woolf. “That’s a ways. My district is big, but Brooklyn to Watertown is a long way apart.”

Other Democratic seats Walden has his eye on include Rep. Tim Bishop’s, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s and Rep. Dan Maffei’s.

Initially, Walden did not mention Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who is facing a rematch against Nan Hayworth, but he said not to read into that.

“No one will outwork Nan Hayworth,” Walden insisted.


Grimm and Meeks: Congressional Buddies

Rep. Michael Grimm has a friend in Rep. Gregory Meeks.

The Republican and Democrat teamed up to pass a bill to halt rising flood insurance rates, and at a press conference Thursday, the two tried to outdo each other with their compliments.

“You’re the man,” said Meeks, as he walked into the event.

“No, you’re the man,” replied Grimm.

Grimm went on call Meeks a “true leader” and a “friend.”

Meeks responded by saying, “I want to thank especially my buddy Michael Grimm, who you know, let me tell you – he was relentless in trying to make sure we had a deal here.”

The Queens Democrat has long been a friend of the embattled Staten Island Republican, who is facing a tough reelection against Democrat Domenic Recchia.

We asked Meeks’ office if the Democrat plans on getting involved in the Grimm/Recchia race and are waiting for a response. National Democrats are working hard to unseat Grimm, as they fight an uphill battle to regain control of the House.



Bloomberg Meets With Obama

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg is once again teaming up with President Obama.

The two met for lunch at the White House Tuesday, on the same day the President unveiled his budget, which includes policies aimed at targeting income inequality. Just last week, Bloomberg was at the White House to help the President unveil a new initiative aimed at helping black and Latino boys.

During the lunch, the Mayor expressed his support for Obama’s budget proposal to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps decrease the tax burden on low-income Americans.

Here’s Bloomberg’s statement on his meeting with the President:

“Today, I joined President Obama at the White House for lunch where we discussed his budget proposal, the state of our economy, and his initiative to help young black and Latino men realize their potential, among other critical issues. It was a thoughtful, honest dialogue – the kind we need more of in Washington.

“In his budget submission, the President has smartly included an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless adults – a program that both the right and the left acknowledge as one of the most effective anti-poverty programs ever created, and one we launched on the local level in New York City.

“Last year, in New York City, we created a pilot program to increase the value of the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit for individuals without children, a first by an American city. Constantly pursuing new and innovative antipoverty initiatives like an expanded EITC is an important reason why New York was the only major American city not to experience an increase in its poverty rate compared to the 2000 Census, and the President is right to see an expanded EITC as a critical element in the fight against poverty, particularly for young men.

“Members of both parties should support expanding the EITC, a program that rewards work, lifts people out of poverty, and reduces dependence on government services. Leadership in both houses of Congress should seize the opportunity for bipartisanship, and pass the President’s EITC proposal this year.”


Gibson Raises Money Off State of the Union Seating Choice

Rep. Chris Gibson is sitting with a Democrat during Tuesday’s State of the Union address and he wants his donors to know about it.

In a fundraising email titled “Across the Aisle”, Gibson says, “Tonight I’ll demonstrate my commitment to bipartisanship by sitting with my colleague Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) during the President’s speech.”

The email includes a link for supporters to give money to his campaign.

Gibson says he has been friends with Ruiz since 2010, when they met in Haiti during an humanitarian mission aimed at helping victims of the devastating earthquake. The congressman says that while in Congress they have worked on legislation to help veterans.

The fundraising plea comes as Gibson’s opponent, Sean Eldridge, tries to seize on Gibson’s support for a bill that would further restrict the use of federal money for abortions as proof that Gibson is lockstep with the party.

“When our country faces so many important challenges, Congressman Gibson and John Boehner are focused on restricting women’s healthcare and reproductive freedom instead of working to move our country forward by rebuilding our infrastructure, investing in job training, or raising the minimum wage,” said Eldridge.

Gibson has long been considered one of the most liberal Republicans in the House.

Collins Slams Club for Growth, Heritage Action

The entire New York delegation supported the $1.1 trillion bipartisan spending plan that easily sailed through the House Wednesday afternoon.

One of the most striking things about the debate leading up to the vote was the Republican Party’s attempt to distance itself from conservative groups like Club for Growth and Heritage Action.

The two groups urged lawmakers to oppose the spending bill, claiming it was just too big. But in the end, they were only able to persuade 64 Republicans to oppose the bill; 166 supported it.

Before the vote, I caught up with Republican Chris Collins, who defended the bill and accused conservative groups of confusing discretionary spending with mandatory spending.

“Club for Growth and Heritage, I don’t know what world they live in. Our problem is entitlement spending,” said Collins. “This is discretionary. They keep mixing the two together. Their frustration is, as we all have the frustration, that our deficits are out of control, our debt keeps going up, driven by entitlement programs. This is discretionary spending. And it’s spending at an inflation-adjusted level lower than 2009. This should be a celebration by Club for Growth or Heritage Action, and what it effectively is showing the American public is they’re out of touch, they’re extremist.”

Last month, House Speaker John Boehner let loose on the groups, after they first announced their opposition to the budget agreement.


DCCC Steps Up Attacks On Elise Stefanik

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee isn’t wasting any time taking down the presumed Republican front-runner in the race to replace Rep. Bill Owens, who surprised the political world on Tuesday when he announced that he would retire at the end of the year.

In an email blasted out to reporters Wednesday morning, the D-Trip tried to link Elise Stefanik to Rep. Paul Ryan and his attempts to turn Medicare into a voucher system.

“Paul Ryan and the Tea Party have made it clear they have their sights set on the North Country and Elise Stefanik will be their standard-bearer,” said DCCC spokesman Marc Brumer. “As a top national Republican operative, Elise Stefanik engineered the party’s extreme right wing platform that North Country voters rejected in 2012 and cost Paul Ryan the Vice Presidency.  Now Paul Ryan is doing everything he can to get his protégé Elise Stefanik elected because he knows she will help him the next time he tries to end Medicare as we know it and raise costs on seniors, just like she did in 2012.”

Stefanik is one of three Republicans who have already declared their intentions to run.

Up until Tuesday, Owens’ race was considered competitive, but there was a sense among Democrats that Owens would be able to hold on to the seat like he had in the past. Now Democrats, who already face an uphill battle to regain the House majority, find themselves scrambling to find a candidate that can win in a district that has a Republican enrollment advantage. It should be noted the district did vote for President Obama.

In response to the DCCC’s criticism of Stefanik, the National Republican Congressional Committee tried to tie the race to the GOP’s favorite bogeyman, Nancy Pelosi.

“Speaking of rubber stamps, the next time the DCCC cuts and pastes one of its generic press releases, they might want to actually consider the dynamics of the district and what people there are concerned about,” said NRCC spokesman Ian Prior. “Elsie Stefanik is a successful small businesswoman from a traditionally Republican district who understands the effect of job killing policies like the medical device tax that were forced on upstate New Yorkers the last time that Nancy Pelosi was Speaker of the House and Republican candidates like Elsie are trying to get to Congress to make sure that does not happen again.”