Chris Collins

Langworthy Calls For Ebola Related Travel Ban; Collins Does Not

As calls for a travel ban in the wake of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa get louder, many politicians have been cautious about taking a firm stance on the issue.  Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy isn’t one of them.

“I think it’s just common sense.  I mean we need to protect our homeland and I think the first way to do that is to isolate new threats created by this Ebola outbreak,” Langworthy said.

Langworthy’s position is in line with several high profile Republicans but not with a GOP congressional member is in own back yard.

“That (travel ban) would be devastating to everyone in the country, across the world to say don’t travel. There’s also no guarantee that would contain anything necessarily,” said Republican Chris Collins.

The Clarence Republican noted the CDC has set up check-points at five major airports to screen air travelers coming into the U.S. for temperature and any sign of symptoms.

“They’re not foolproof but it is a step. I think it would certainly be premature today to call for a travel ban.  I think what we need to do is keep this in perspective and see what develops over the next few days, next few weeks relative to these nurses and you never take options off the table once we know what we’re dealing with,” Collins added.

Langworthy and Collins have a longstanding relationship in Erie County politics but the chairman says he hasn’t talked to Collins about the issue.

“I think this is common sense and the President needs to follow suit and I trust that same common sense would be shared by our local delegation as well,” said Langworthy.

Collins is not alone, a spokesperson for Southern Tier Republican Tom Reed said Friday the Congressman is not calling for a travel ban rather calling for “precautions with travelers to and from West Africa. Langworthy insisted he was simply expressing his opinion and his message was for the President not the Western New York Congressional Delegation.

“I mean we don’t need another czar, we don’t need another bureaucrat in Washington we need the President to stand up and be a leader,” Langworthy added.

Langworthy Still Not Ready To Endorse Astorino

Just hours after officially entering the Governor’s race, Rob Astorino announced Western New York would be one of his first stops.  Given the extra attention paid to the region by Governor Cuomo, local Republican leaders aren’t surprised.

“It’s important for any candidate for statewide office to travel the state as much as they possibly can.  They need to get in front of people.  He won’t just come here to do a press conference.  He’ll certainly meet with business leaders and people in the community,” said Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy.

Gaining Langworthy’s support seems like a must for any candidate wanting to win the GOP nomination.  Langworthy helped engineer Carl Paladino’s unlikely primary upset out of Buffalo in 2010.

Both Astorino and potential Republican candidate Donald Trump have already appeared at fundraising events for the Erie County Republican Committee.  Langworthy told Time Warner Cable News Reporter Ryan Whalen Wednesday he’s still not ready to make an endorsement.

“I’ve said I wouldn’t endorse candidates until they declared their formal candidacy.  Rob now has.  We’ll see if we have one candidate or two candidates,” Langworthy said.

Langworthy has been supportive of Astorino, but, like many Republican County Chairs, he’s waiting to see if Trump is still interested before giving out his coveted endorsement.

“Do we have one have candidate or two candidates that want the endorsement?  We will hear from Donald Trump on Tuesday in Syracuse as to what maybe his plans might be.  I haven’t talked to him in about a week but looking forward to hear what he has to say when he visits Syracuse,” said Langworthy.

Astorino will appear at the ZeptoMetrix Corporation headquarters on Main Street in Buffalo Thursday Afternoon with Republican Congressman, and former Erie County Executive, Chris Collins.  Collins a shareholder in the company, and was not available for comment on Wednesday.

“They have a longstanding relationship back to when they served together as county executives and they have a great appreciation of one another.  So he may very well endorse him.  I do not know if he will or not,” said Langworthy.

No matter who wins the GOP nomination to challenge Governor Cuomo, Langworthy believes the party’s running mate should come from Western New York.  State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin’s name was mentioned as a possible Lt. Governor candidate Wednesday and Langworthy loved the idea.

“I think they share a lot of common values.  I think she has fought for the same common sense business perspectives that we need in Albany, not just more of the same special interest nonsense.  She would be a great Lieutenant Governor for any Governor,” Langworthy added.

The Erie County Republican Committee has its regional screening meeting April 12.  It’s hoping to vet as many statewide candidates as possible, including gubernatorial candidates.

No matter what happens, Langworthy hopes the party will unite behind one candidate.

Three New York Congressmen Introduce Kids Before Cons Act

The “Kids Before Cons Act.”  It’s the name of a new piece of legislation introduced by three New York Congressmen on Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by Republicans Chris Collins, Tom Reed, and Chris Gibson, would prohibit the use of federal taxpayer dollars to provide a college education to convicted criminals.  The measure is a response to Governor Cuomo’s proposal to provide free College Education to inmates at 10 state prisons.

“The Governor’s latest plan to fund college educations for convicted criminals using taxpayer dollars is an insult to law abiding citizens all across our state,” Collins said.

All three GOP sponsors said the Governor’s plan sends the wrong message.

“College students in New York leave school with an average of nearly $26,000 in student loans, a huge undertaking for any family,” said Reed.

“We can do better than spend federal taxpayer dollars on the education of convicted criminals when our hardworking New Yorkers need the assistance themselves,” Gibson said.

Collins plans to take action during the House Appropriations process to ensure no funds in any particular bill are used to fund college courses for convicted criminals.  Collins says the “Kids Before Cons Act” does not ban states from using federal dollars to support GED or work training programs in prisons and correctional facilities.

“We must put our college kids before cons,” Collins added.

The Governor’s office provided no immediate response the congressional proposal.

 

Collins Wants To Block Federal Aid For College In Prison Plan

Republican Rep. Chris Collins plans to introduce a bill that would block any federal funds to a Gov. Andrew Cuomo-backed program that will provide college-level courses to state prison inmates.

“The Governor’s latest plan to fund college educations for convicted criminals with New Yorkers’ tax dollars is an insult to law abiding citizens all across our state,” Collins said in a statement. “We hear over and over again from politicians concerned about the growing cost of higher education and the amount of student debt our young people are sacked with after earning their degree. Strangely, many of these same politicians think tax dollars should be spent to give convicted criminals a free college degree.”

Cuomo’s plan is aimed at reducing recidivism in the state’s prison system.

It’s not entirely clear how much the plan will cost, but Cuomo’s office points to the $60,000-a-year annual cost of incarceration versus the $5,000-a-year bill to provide a bachelor or associates degree to an inmate.

Collins, however, says the Federal Bureau of Prisons does grant states funding for educational programs in state prisons and correctional facilities.

The bill, which Collins says he’ll introduce in the coming days, would ban states from access to that money for college programs in prisons.

Republicans — mostly state lawmakers and potential candidate for governor Rob Astorino — have blasted Cuomo for proposing the program, which would be located at 10 prisons around the state.

Backers of the plan include state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, as well as members of the Legislature’s black and Hispanic caucus.

Collins, a former Erie County executive who once considered a run for governor himself, last year ruled out a statewide campaign.

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.

 

Rep. Collins blasts Obama, says Putin’s stature has been elevated

Rep. Chris Collins (R-27) welcomed a potential diplomatic solution to the standoff with Syria, but criticized President Obama for allowing Russia to craft it.

Collins made the remarks during a conference call with reporters, held just hours before President Obama was scheduled to speak.

According to Collins, Russia’s proposal for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons has elevated Russian President Vladimir Putin and diminished the standing of the United States.

Collins said “the most unfortunate piece” of the possible solution is that Russia is going to take credit for it.

Collins said he has not decided if he would support military action in Syria, should a resolution authorizing force make its way to the House.

The Senate has put a vote on hold, and some Senators, including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), are working on a new proposal that would allow for military action if efforts to take Syria’s chemical weapons were unsuccessful.

Collins, who has been surveying his district, said the vast majority of his constituents oppose military action.

“I’ve never seen anything this overwhelming,” said Collins.

 

 

Boehner Returns To WNY To Stump For Collins

House Speaker John Boehner will be in Western New York on Wednesday.  Boehner will be attending two private fundraisers for GOP Congressman Chris Collins.

Boehner stumped for Collins last October when the Clarence Republican challenged and ultimatley defeated Incumbent Kathy Hochul.  YNN Buffalo confirmed the two fundraisers for Collins will be held at private homes in Hamburg.

Both events are closed to the media.  No word on how long the House Speaker will be in Western New York.

Collins Blasts ‘Chained CPI’ Proposal

On the eve of President Obama’s budget presentation, a Western New York Republican joined the AARP in criticizing an expected decrease in the amount paid out in Social Security benefits by restructuring cost of living adjustments.  Chris Collins says the move would hurt seniors and veterans.

“If you change the calculation of the consumer price index and how you calculate inflation, that’s going to continue to pinch our seniors who, come the end of the month, the stories I hear, are having trouble putting food on the table,” Collins said.

According to the AARP, changing the way the consumer price index is calculated would cost seniors and veteran pension recipients in Erie County $476 Million in future benefits.  An AARP representative told YNN’s Ryan Whalen Tuesday, the “Chained CPI” expected in the President’s budget would hit Erie County harder than originally expected.

“It does not take into account the fixed costs that the seniors or all of us have, such as utilities, your healthcare costs, prescription drugs, gasoline. You can’t make a substitution for those.   So that will make it even more difficult, particularly for those who are struggling to begin with,” AARP advocate Dave Hollen said.

Collins says this proposal impacts Western New York more than other parts of the country because there are more seniors.

“We’re not a wealthy community. So many of our seniors, I think the number is 75 percent of the average senior’s lifestyle, is supported by Social Security. They don’t have pensions and other savings,” Collins said.

The Clarence Republican is one of only a handful of GOP lawmakers criticizing the “chained CPI.”  The inclusion in the President’s budget is seen as an olive branch to Republicans, many of whom seem optimistic about the plan.  

“I’m frankly very disappointed that he (Obama) is focusing on seniors,” Collins said.

Collins says there are other, more obvious cuts in spending that could be made.  Collins expects his GOP colleagues to join him in opposing an expected call from the President for increased tax revenue and spending.

“He doesn’t think we have a spending problem. He thinks we have a revenue problem and the cuts he’s making are on the backs of our seniors,” Collins said.

The AARP recently polled its members in New Yorkand found most oppose benefit decreases.  In this case, Collins agrees.

“If you look at what you would call the Ryan Budget; that budget was balanced without taking things away from seniors,” Collins added.

 

Collins Continues his Assault on the V.A.

Just days after the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War, Western New York Congressman Chris Collins said the Federal agency created to help veterans needs a complete overhaul.

“The V.A. needs to have a top to bottom look at what’s wrong.  They’re just not serving the veterans.  They deserve better,” Collins said.

Since taking over New York’s 27thCongressional District in January, the Clarence Republican hasn’t exactly been impressed with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He said the national attention over the hundreds of thousands of unprocessed medical claims is just one of several problems.

“The bureaucratic system has broken down.  They’re in my office, the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, just begging for more assistance from Congress to force the issue for the V.A. to just process the claims on time,” Collins said.

This is not the first time Collins has called on his colleagues to hold the V.A. “accountable.”  Collins called for Congressional hearings after the FDA announced that more than 700 patients from the V.A. Western New York hospital in Buffalo could have been infected with hepatitis and HIV.  In January, the V.A. released a memo that said some insulin pens at the location were misused.

“It’s the fact that they did reuse pens at the VA locally. It’s the fact that many of the patients were veterans that served our country at great risk.   Because really some bureaucrat wasn’t following the proper procedures,” Collins said.

This week, two new developments in Western New York have only fueled Collins’ call for reform.  Tuesday, Collins said he learned about what he called a stalled project at the V.A. Medical Center in Canandaigua.  It’s a biomass steam generation system that was funded with $15 million in Federal stimulus money.  Collins said the project now sits half finished.

“That would save millions of dollars in energy and that’s all come to a screeching halt, and no one at the V.A. really wants to answer for that,” said Collins.

To cap things off, on Wednesday, the V.A. announced it was postponing a sports and recreation competition for veterans scheduled for later this spring in Buffalo.  Buffalo was awarded the 27th annual National Veterans Golden Age games in 2011.  Organizers have been planning for the event since 2007.

“Hotel rooms have been sold the Buffalo-Niagara convention center has been blocked out.  People’s livelihoods are depending on it.  They just shrug their shoulders and with weeks to go they pull the plug on it?”

Fellow Western New York Congressman Brian Higgins estimated the games would have had a $2.2 million impact on the local economy.  The V.A. blamed the “fiscal climate” for the postponement.  Collins says it’s just another sign of dysfunction.

“We’ve spoken to them we’ve written them letters.  We’ve had other members of Congress sign onto our letters.”

And while Collins admits Congress hasn’t had much luck pressuring the V.A. to change its ways, he says he’ll keep trying.

“We really need to hold them accountable, because quite frankly they’re not serving the veterans,” Collins added.

The Politics of Remembering 3407

It’s said that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”  The famous quote from Albert Einstein was repeated several times in Washington last week as the families of the victims of flight 3407 marked the four year anniversary of the crash that killed 50 people in Western New York.  It was a somber anniversary some observed by expressing their frustration.

“There were a lot of emotions in the room and I think you saw that on display,” said Republican Congressman Tom Reed of Corning.

Reed stood with the family of the victims and several members of New York’s Congressional Delegation during a joint press conference at the Capitol Tuesday.  After pledging his support for the continued push to implement new airline safety regulations in the wake of the crash, Reed introduced Western New York’s newest Congressman Chris Collins.

“Chris was one of the first people on the scene.  He shares a commitment, along with the families of the victims, to make sure we get the new safety regulations implemented,” Reed said.

Collins was the Erie County Executive on February 12th, 2009.  Fighting back tears, Collins said the images of the crash in Clarence Center will remain etched in his memory forever.

“I was in charge of the emergency response. I am overwhelmed right now. Cause I remember that night like it was yesterday,” said Collins.

Collins isn’t known for public displays of emotion.  During his campaign for New York’s newly formed 27th Congressional District, Collins joked about how some people told him he needed to smile more.

Standing in front of those who lost loved ones, and the assembled National and Western New Yorkmedia, the Freshman Republican gave a fiery speech calling for a change in strategy.

“The loss of those 50 souls never should have happened. And we should not be standing here now asking the FAA to do a job. And I’m sorry. But a new deadline is unacceptable. To say, and I’m sorry Senator Schumer, to say that they’re going to meet the deadline; they’ve missed the deadline again, and again, and again. That is unacceptable. Words are unacceptable” Collins said.

Just minutes earlier New York’s Senior Senator was speaking at the very same podium.  He acknowledged that two and half years after safety regulations were passed though Congress, the airline industry had not yet implemented some of the most important ones.

“It’s a long process,” Schumer said.

Schumer said the Federal Aviation Administration is still not enforcing rules that require all pilots, not just captains, to have 15-hundred hours of flight time before they’re certified.  Schumer also said the FAA has not adopted enhancements to traditional training programs that would require the use of flight simulation training devices for flight crew members, and additional training in areas that are critical to safety.

“What we’ve all come to do is to tell the FAA to implement these rules by August and October 2013 deadline respectively. But to also make sure these rules are enforced on day one.  The good news is we spoke to the FAA this morning and they’ve assured us that they are on track to meet both the August deadline for pilot certification and the October deadline for crew member training. They told us they will meet those deadlines,” Schumer said.

Eleven minutes after leaving the room to cast a vote on the Senate floor, a visibly annoyed Schumer retook the podium.

“I have something else I want to say,” Schumer said.

And in a rare misstep, the Brooklyn Democrat responded to remarks made by “Senator Collins.”

“I heard when I was out of the room that Senator Collins said we shouldn’t be tricked by the FAA. We’ve had a long experience of four years with the FAA. And we are going to watch them like hawks. As we have, and when they falter we get on their case and we make sure they do the job.”

Schumer said if the FAA failed to meet the new deadlines:

“They will be hearing from us to make sure it happens we are all on the same team here. And we’re all going to get this done together.”

The remarks by Collins and response by Schumer seemed unusual in a press conference that was otherwise well-choreographed.  Afterward, Congressman Reed quickly stepped in to play peacemaker. 

“I talked to the Senator afterwards, and we both agree we need to stay united.  We need to send one loud unified voice.  Chuck has been a very strong supporter of the efforts to get these new safety regulations though congress and implemented by the FAA.  And I applaud him,” Reed said.

Reed was also quick to defend Collins.  When asked to describe Collins’ remarks, Reed had a simple explanation.

“I don’t think it was an attack.  It was just an emotional response to see what needs to get done, gets done,” Reed said.

A spokesperson for Collins declined to comment specifically on the incident.

“The focus should be the effort by Flight 3407 families and Congress to press the FAA to implement the new regulations that were passed by Congress.  Congressman Collins was expressing his frustration that the FAA has yet to implement the new regulations,” said Grant Loomis, Collins’ Communications Director.

Tuesday, FAA representatives told 3407 family members that work to put the new regulations in place wouldn’t be completed until 2014.  Loomis suggested the fact the FAA would miss another deadline, proved Collins’ frustrations were “founded.”

A day after the anniversary of the crash Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta sent a letter to Senators Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand clarifying the FAA’s position.  Huerta said he hoped to complete work on the pilot qualifications rule by August and the flight crew member training rule by October.

As uncomfortable as the Collins-Schumer moment may have seemed for those watching, it certainly was a different approach.

“But I can promise the families now that I’m in this position that I’m not going to just listen to words. Words are not enough. And the airlines that have been fighting us are unconscionable,” Collins said.