Feb 21st - 1:20 pm
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-New York, was careful not to overtly criticize Republican colleague Chris Collins while speaking with reporters Tuesday in Buffalo. Collins has come under fire by activists criticizing the congressman for not holding a town hall-style meeting with his constituents.
Higgins did say town hall meetings can be a very effective way to communicate with people, especially when a representative has a large geographic district.
“Regardless of the district, regardless of the tone and tenor of them, they do have good value in communicating with constituents but each member of Congress has their own unique way of communicating with constituents and I wouldn’t presume to know what’s effective for somebody else,” he said.
Higgins’ office regularly holds satellite office hours which he calls “Congress On Your Corner.” He said he plans to personally attend Wednesday’s meeting at a local senior center.
“I’m deeply immersed in my community. I’m not a social member of congress. I don’t dwell there. I come back to Buffalo and Western New York every week because I think it’s an urgent reminder as to why you’re sent to Washington in the first place,” Higgins said.
The congressman said they’ll be having several meetings over the next couple weeks and months, discussing issues of concern as they come up. He said one of the main issues he’s discussing with constituents right now is health care and the Affordable Care Act.
Feb 21st - 6:00 am
From the Morning Memo:
Activists in Western New York continue to pressure Rep. Chris Collins, a prominent supporter of President Donald Trump, to hold a town hall meeting.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of the Republican congressman’s Lancaster office last night – an effort that comes about a week after many of the same protesters paid for two electronic billboards asking “Where’s Chris Collins?”
In fact, finding the congressman is not a difficult task – just turn on the TV. He’s been all over the national media outlets as one of the main Trump surrogates.
Some of his constituents said while Collins has been doing plenty of talking, he hasn’t been listening to them. They’re concerned about the congressman’s seemingly unwavering support for Trump and his policies.
“I’m a breast cancer survivor and I’m very concerned about them repealing the Affordable Care Act and with it would go the exemption for pre-existing conditions,” Jane VanDeusen of Lake View said. “I have family member who has hemophilia and his medication cost $5,000 a month. These people are hard workers we’ve all paid taxes. It just seem very unfair that they would appeal the Affordable Care Act.”
Collins allies, meanwhile, have questioned why he would want to heed the protestors’ calls and expose himself to what they believe is a vocal minority, only interested in shouting him down. They pointed to the town hall meetings held by Collins’ congressional neighbor – and fellow Trump backer – Rep. Tom Reed this past weekend, which were at times confrontational.
Some Collins backers even made it Lancaster last night to provide something of a counter-demonstration.
“People who do live in the district do support Collins as he wins election after election, and as is out right now serving the country with Trump and the Administration trying to make America great again,” one supporter, who gave his name only as “Joshua” said.
Collins, for his part, has said he has no intention to host a town hall, calling them “useless” and saying he prefers to meet with people one-on-one.
He has also noted that he won his district with about two-thirds of the vote in the last election, and says he’ll continue to serve his constituents to the best of his ability.
Feb 20th - 12:45 pm
Supporters of Rep. Chris Collins, R-New York, have started a crowd funding campaign to raise money for a billboard. Michael Caputo, a Collins ally and former Donald Trump campaign staffer, created a GoFundMe page, which as of Monday afternoon was about $500 short of its $1600 goal.
The effort is intended to counter two electronic billboards that bash the Western New York congressman for being unavailable to his constituents. On his page, Caputo suggested those billboards were backed by leftists who hate the president and want to destroy his closest allies.
“When they’re not namecalling, attacking police, breaking windows, burning property, or physically assaulting women and men who support the President, they’re organizing online to defame good people like Chris Collins. Last week, the leftists couldn’t find any Trump supporters to beat up so they raised money to put up a billboard trashing our congressman,” he wrote.
Caputo wants to put up a billboard responding to the accusation that the congressman and Trump Transition Team congressional liaison isn’t working hard for the people he represents.
“We want to raise enough money to put up a billboard that tells the truth – 78% of NY-27 constituents are delighted with Rep. Collins’ service to our community, and the leftists are just loudmouths who lost,” he wrote.
Caputo said the number he’s referring to is the percentage of votes Collins received last election. Collins has won New York’s 27th district comfortably, but in actuality received roughly 67 percent of the vote in both 2016 and 2014.
The congressman has not endorsed the fundraising effort. Meanwhile, the groups behind the “Where’s Chris Collins?” billboards are planning a protest outside his Williamsville office Monday afternoon, again calling on the congressman to host a town hall meeting.
Feb 17th - 6:45 am
Rep. Chris Collins and President Donald Trump looked a lot like old friends as they sat side by side yesterday at the White House during a meeting of some of the president’s earliest supporters that the Western New York congressman organized at Trump’s request.
“Today’s meeting demonstrated the loyalty President Trump has for the people that stood with him from the beginning,” Collins said after the get together.
The congressman said the discussion, which lasted more than 45 minutes, covered everything from infrastructure funding to healthcare and tax reform.
“President Trump has delivered on promise after promise so far during his presidency,” Collins said. “I look forward to this being the first of many meetings with President Trump, and will continue relaying the important interests of Western New York directly to the White House.”
Southern Tier Republican Rep. Tom Reed also attended, and said continued communication and partnership with the White House can only be good for his constituents.
“Things like promoting US manufacturing, reforming our tax code or making college affordable for all will bring our nation come together so all will have the opportunity to succeed,” Reed said. “Therefore, I value our relationship with the President and greatly appreciate the President providing me an opportunity to have it.”
Reed also said he came away from the meeting, which he described as “very candid” and “direct,” that there’s “just nothing there on the Russia issue.” He was speaking of reports that members of Team Trump were in contact with Russian officials both during and after the presidential election last year.
It was Michael Flynn’s lying to Vice President Mike Pence about discussions Flynn had with Russia’s ambassador to the United States regarding sanctions against Russia that cost the now-former White House national security advisor his job.
Reed said the president made it clear during the meeting – as he did at yesterday’s freewheeling, 80-minute press conference – that he’s mostly concerned about how information about the conversations with Russia leaked out of the White House.
“He said he would get to the bottom of it,” Reed told The Buffalo News. “It’s the leaking of classified information, a real national security risk.”
Feb 16th - 6:30 am
From the Morning Memo:
Western New York will be well-represented today as President Donald Trump meets with some of his earliest supporters from Congress at the White House.
New York Republican Reps. Chris Collins and Tom Reed were among a select few chosen to share their input with the president about his first month in office.
“It’s clear President Trump values loyalty and remembers the people who have been with him from the beginning,” Collins spokesperson Michael McAdams said.
He said Collins, the first sitting congressman to endorse Trump, was actually asked to organize the meeting – a clear sign of Western New York’s continued influence in the White House. Collins, meanwhile, continues to be a key surrogate for the president, and a near-ubiquitous presence defending Trump on national TV.
Thanks to that role, the congressman’s national profile has risen significantly over the past year, though that has – at times – put him in a difficult position.
Earlier this week, Collins appeared on CNN’s New Day with Chris Cuomo (brother of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo) to discuss the sudden resignation of now-former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
As one of the first people to speak for the administration on this issue, some of Collins’ answers came off a bit clunky, (though, to be fair, the White House itself has been having a hard time getting its message straight on this one), and he was repeatedly rebuked by Cuomo.
“That had to be Chris Collins’ 350th live television interview since he endorsed Donald Trump,” former Trump campaign staffer Michael Caputo said.
“He’s had good ones and bad ones but he’s done remarkably well overall, and I know that the president is very proud to have him representing him on television. That was a very difficult interview.”
Caputo noted it was unlikely the administration, which at the time was preparing its own response to the Flynn mess, gave Collins much guidance before he went live. Still, some of the congressman’s comments – including one where he suggested the Republican silence was due to the fact that many members of Congress were otherwise engaged having Valentine’s Day breakfast with their spouses – made good fodder for the late night comedy shows.
Both The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah lampooned Collins Tuesday night. But Caputo said he doesn’t believe that will make the congressman reconsider appearing on shows like New Day in the future.
“Given the choice to take an interview or not on behalf of the president, I think Representative Collins is inclined to say yes every time,” Caputo said. “He knows that the president has a need for surrogates out there and he’s one of the best ones that the president has.”
The fact that Collins has become the subject of comedy shows, according to Caputo, is just one more sign of his increased relevance on the national stage. Next stop: Saturday Night Live.
Feb 15th - 5:36 pm
The president will host about a half a dozen of his earliest supporters from Congress at the White House on Thursday. Rep. Chris Collins, R-New York, the first sitting congressman to endorse Donald Trump and the transition team’s congressional liaison, organized the meeting.
Collins spokesperson Michael McAdams said it should be a casual conversation about Trump’s first month in office. Southern Tier Congressman Reed has also been invited to join.
“This just shows Western New York’s influence in the White House and Congressman Collins was happy to facilitate that,” McAdams said. “It’s clear President Trump values loyalty and remembers the people who have been with him from the beginning.”
He said the meeting should take roughly a half an hour.
Feb 2nd - 5:06 pm
In his first public departure from the Trump administration Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY, has expressed concern about biometric security scanning along the country’s northern border. Collins wrote a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly asking him to carefully consider the widespread impact of implementing such a program, which could require measures like fingerprinting or iris scans to enter the country.
“Western New Yorkers and our economy rely heavily on the timely movement between Canada and the United States via the Peace Bridge,” he said. “While keeping our communities safe is my number one priority, I want to ensure that before any agency implements the biometric exit-entry system fully, we examine all possible transportation impacts and take steps to alleviate any disruptions that may be created. Our southern and northern borders have different security issues and I hope those differences are taken into account.”
Trump’s recent executive order regarding immigration called for the expedited implementation of a biometric system, as recommended by the National Committee of Terrorist Attacks on the United States. Earlier this week, Collins expressed support for the order which has received more attention for suspending refugee entry into the U.S.
A spokesperson said at the time, he was still reviewing the biometric portion.
“I strongly support increased national security measures across our nation and commend President Trump for his swift action,” he wrote to Kelly. “However, I am concerned that an expedited implementation of this system will not take into consideration the differences in security interests at our northern and southern borders.”
When Congress was considering a similar measure in 2015, Collins expressed doubts about the practice and introduced an amendment that would have stalled implementation. The Western New York Republican was the first sitting congressman to endorse Trump last year and is the congressional liaison to the transition team.
Feb 1st - 5:45 am
From the Morning Memo:
It’s a story with a longer life span than Congressman Chris Collins probably would have hoped. The Western New York Republican has continually rejected accusations he was involved in an insider trader scheme.
Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner says he doesn’t know if Collins did anything wrong. Frankly though, he’s tired of hearing about.
He said what he has learned from reports is that the congressman appears to be talking a lot about the money he’s made for himself and others.
“It is clear that Chris Collins is spending most of his time on he and his cronies investments rather than using his new position of clout to deliver “bigly” for all of us in WNY.”
Collins is the congressional liaison for Donald Trump’s transition team and in the president’s inner circle. Zellner said he should be using his position to help fast-track much needed economic infrastructure projects in his district.
“I’d like to see a roll-out of what is exactly his plan for Western New York as the entire federal government is at his fingertips right now,” he said.
Zellner said, although his term isn’t up until next year, the party is already planning to challenge Collins. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this week named him one of its primary targets for 2018.
“We’re certainly going to take a shot at it and it’s a very difficult district but I don’t believe that he’s serving his constituents well,” Zellner said.
Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy believes Collins will have no issue defending his seat. He argued that calls for legislation or projects specific to his district aren’t fair.
“You’re not going to have a Western New York-only plan coming out of Washington D.C. That’s not the way it works,” Langworthy said. “We sent him to Washington to create the best national policies that we can to get the government off the backs of businesses in Western New York.”
The “stock tip” story shot back into the headlines again Tuesday after Collins mistakenly hit “reply all,” including reporter in an email intended for the head of Innate Immunotherapeutics, the company at the center of the accusations. According to CNN, Collins thanked CEO Simon Wilkinson in the email, for rebuking what he called a distorted media report.
Jan 30th - 1:40 pm
The congressional liaison for Donald Trump’s transition team called the president’s executive order, temporarily banning citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries, a “common sense measure.” Rep. Chris Collins, R-New York, released a statement Monday expressing his support for the action.
“President Trump promised to make America safe again and his executive order aims to ensure we know who is entering our country,” Collins wrote.
The congressman reaffirmed his stance while speaking with reporters Monday at the state Conservative Party conference near Albany. Collins said the seven nations were identified as hotbeds of terrorism by the Obama administration.
The executive order suspended all refugee admissions to the United States for 120 days and blocked citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States for 90 days.
“A 90-day pause as we get our Department of Homeland Security back up and running, I don’t see that America would consider that a negative in any way. In fact, it’s a promise to keep America safe,” he said.
Collins’ Democratic counterpart in Western New York, Congressman Brian Higgins, meanwhile, condemned the president’s actions. In a statement Monday, he said he stands resolutely with those outraged by the executive order’s intent and implementation.
“As a former member of the Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs Committees, I understand the complex and serious threats to our country and the need to be constantly vigilant against them. To hear reports that this order was hastily developed without the serious input of the professionals responsible for national security and for carrying out the President’s directive is both irresponsible and reckless,” he said.
Rep. Collins has not yet commented on another provision of the order which calls for biometric scans, like finger printing and facial recognition tests, at borders. When Congress was considering a similar measure in 2015, Collins expressed doubts about the practice and introduced an amendment that would have stalled implementation.
The bill was ultimately pulled by House Republicans.
UPDATE: Collins spokesman Michael McAdams forwarded a statement regarding biometric scans.
“Congressman Collins stands by his past comments and will be examining this issue thoroughly in the coming weeks,” he said.
Jan 19th - 6:15 am
From the Morning Memo:
Buffalo Rep. Chris Collins, a staunch Donald Trump supporter and frequent surrogate, admitted to having conversations about a New Zealand-based medical biotechnology company with the president-elect’s Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price, but insisted he never disclosed any non-public information to his fellow congressman.
The nature of their dealings gained attention after Price, a Georgia Republican, was grilled yesterday by Democratic senators during his confirmation hearing about purchasing stock in the company, Innate Immunotherapeutics.
Sen. Patty Murray, of Washington State, said she remembered Price telling her he bought into the company after having a conversation with Collins.
The nominee admitted he did have a conversation with Collins, but insisted there was nothing in their discussions that could be considered a “stock tip.” Collins’ office reaffirmed that claim in a statement.
“During his more than 15 year relationship with Innate Immunotherapeutics, Congressman Collins has had thousands of conversations about the debilitating impact of Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis and the need to help the millions of people suffering from this disease,” the congressman’s spokesman Michael Adams said.
“Along the way, he has spoken with hundreds of people, Dr. Price was one of those individuals, as he stated today during his testimony.”
McAdams said Collins has never disclosed any improper information and has followed all ethical and legal standards set by the House. He criticized Murray for launching what he seemed a partisan attack and “insinuating something nefarious occurred.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has also gotten in on the action, releasing a statement that noted Price’s admission that Collins’ involvement, which, according to the Democrats, raises questions about both of them.
“This is extremely troubling and the people of Western New York need immediate assurances from Collins that no House ethics rules or federal laws were broken,” DCCC spokesperson Meredith Kelly said.
Collins owns more than 17 percent of shares in Innate Immunotherapeutics, according to the company’s website, making him its largest stockholder. He has had a 15-year relationship with the company, according to McADams, who added:
“He is very proud of the progress the company has made over the years and hopeful it will develop a potentially life-saving treatment for the millions of individuals suffering from Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.”
On Jan. 5th, Public Citizen, a non-profit watchdog organization, wrote a letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Congressional Ethics Committee, calling for an investigation into the stock market activities of both Collins and Price. Following Price’s testimony, the organization renewed that call.
Rep. Louise Slaughter, a Rochester Democrat who authored the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, is also calling for an investigation.