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.
Dec 1st - 6:15 am
From The Memo:
Rep. Chris Collins said a bill passed by the House could have major ramifications for New York, and his Western New York district in particular.
As part of the chamber’s health subcommittee, the congressman said he had a major role in authoring the “21st Century Cures Act,” a $6.3 billion bill that supporters say will spur medical innovation, speed access to new drugs, expand access to mental health treatment and battle the opioid epidemic.
“I was asked to deal with specifics relative to speeding up the process with the FDA to get drugs to the market faster because I’m probably the only member of Congress that’s ever worked to get a drug to market,” said Collins, who as a businessman has made a number of investments in the biomedical sector.
The House passed the act with bipartisan support yesterday, and has the backing on the outgoing Obama administration, though critics said it gives big handouts to the pharmaceutical industry while making cuts to public health programs and Medicare.
The bill has a wide scope and its funding is intended to help accelerate the discovery, development, and delivery of new cures and treatments for disease. Collins said there’s a major focus on the opioid crisis, too, with the legislation providing $1 billion in grants to help states fight it.
“New York is the third largest state in the nation, so you can, I think, feel pretty comfortable, at the end of the day, you’re going to see an allocation consistent with the size of the state,” he said.
The act also includes Vice President Joe Biden’s so-called “Cancer Moonshot” proposal, with $1.8 billion to speed up research toward finding a cure. Collins said Western New York medical institutions like Roswell Park and Hauptman-Woodward are already preparing to compete for the grants.
“When they put forth a research grant, they are successful way more than most,” the congressman said. “So these additional monies, I think, will flow pretty quickly, because in speaking to those folks, they have plenty of ideas and plenty of programs that they think could move drug development forward and find cures for currently incurable diseases”.
The bill now heads to the U.S. Senate for considering, but Collins is confident it will pass and head to the president for signing.
Nov 28th - 1:04 pm
Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, is joining a chorus of Donald Trump allies concerned about the potential selection of Mitt Romney as secretary of state. Romney was a vocal critic of the president-elect during the primary process, even holding a press conference in March during which he called him a “phony” and a “fraud.”
Collins, the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Trump, turned to name-calling himself when asked about the former governor of Massachusetts.
“What do I know about Mitt Romney? I know that he is a self-serving egomaniac who puts himself first, who has a chip on his shoulder, who thinks he should be president of the United States. I mean, there’s no love lost between me and Mitt Romney,” he said on CNN’s “New Day” Monday morning.
Post-election, Trump and Romney appear to be burying the hatchet with reports Romney is the front-runner to be the president-elect’s top foreign policy adviser. The two are scheduled to meet Tuesday.
Over the past several days, other top surrogates, including campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, have argued publicly against a Romney appointment. The other top contender appears to be former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Collins said ultimately, the decision is up to Trump.
“Healthy debate is a good thing. Disagreement is a good thing. Once you come to an agreement, though, you’ve got to move on,” he said. “My concern is that Mitt Romney is a bit of a lone wolf and might not take the advice or the direction of President-elect Trump. I mean, he is a lone wolf and so from that perspective would I choose him? No, but if President-elect Trump does, I’ll certainly support that decision. It’s up to the president-elect to surround himself with the people that he thinks can best serve his administration.”
Nov 14th - 1:31 pm
Late last year, Congress extended the federal solar tax credit, also known as the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), through the end of 2019. The ITC allows anybody who installs a solar energy system to deduct 30 percent of the installation cost from their federal taxes.
The future of that credit under President-elect Donald Trump’s administration is now in question. Trump has proposed cutting the business tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, and there’s been speculation that incentives for solar and wind projects could be a casualty of that plan.
“I really think it’s premature to say where those credits will end up, but we do have them right now and that’s to be determined in the future,” Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, said.
Adding fuel to the fire, Trump has often dismissed climate change as a “hoax.” Collins, a member of the congressional Energy and Commerce Committee and Trump’s transition team, said the president-elect has an “all-of-the-above” view about energy policy.
“There’s a role for all types of energy, and the war on coal in particular is not good for America. It’s not good for industry,” he said. “There’s a role for solar and wind, but it’s not base load. It’s the extra coming in. So I think there will be a continued role for solar and wind. We have to be fiscally responsible at the same time, so I think the solar credits and the wind credits are something we’re going to have to talk through.”
The tax credits carry particular interest for many of Collins’s constituents in Western New York. New York State just finished building in Buffalo what will be the largest solar panel manufacturing facility in the Western Hemisphere.
The congressman said regardless of what happens to the ITC, he believes SolarCity can succeed.
“Sure it can. It comes back to, what is the project they are providing and at what price point,” he said.
Collins noted the product SolarCity plans to make in Buffalo – a solar roof as opposed to traditional solar panels – is new to the market. He said he believes America is ready for that type of technology, and it may not need the same kind of subsidies that panels do right now.
Nov 11th - 3:16 pm
Rep. Chris Collins has joined the reorganized transition team for President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration.
The western New York Republican is among a handful of New Yorkers on the team, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Overseeing the entire project is Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
The change comes as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, diminished by the “bridgegate” scandal in his home state, is being moved aside in the effort.
Collins has been rumored for being in line for a possible cabinet position such as secretary of commerce. Giuliani has been spoken of as a possible attorney general.
Nov 11th - 1:51 pm
Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act was a rallying cry for Republicans and President-elect Donald Trump throughout the campaign season, but one of Trump’s top surrogates in Congress said he doesn’t expect everything to change overnight.
“I believe the plans that people are now signing up for will be their insurance plans for 2017. There’s nothing we can do today that would impact that,” Rep. Chris Collins, R-New York, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo this morning.
Despite pending Republican control of both houses and the executive branch, Collins doesn’t believe a full repeal of the law in plausible. The GOP doesn’t have the 60 votes in the Senate required to avoid a Democratic filibuster.
Rather, Collins said in Trump’s first 100 days, Republicans will repeal pieces of the law through the reconciliation process, which requires fewer votes but limits what can be removed.
“It’ll be like the repeal we put on his (President Obama’s) desk (last year), medical device tax, health insurance tax, employer mandate, employee mandate, 40 hour week, work week. We can do that through reconciliation,” Collins said.
As for the replacement piece, he said the GOP Congress has some ideas but will have to run them by the Trump administration. He said the American people can expect a transition period.
“You don’t cut it off on a Tuesday and on Wednesday say here’s the new plan. Insurance companies have to put out their plans for 2018, in many cases, by April. So we do have a timeline that we have to adhere to and I think everyone realizes, for the year of 2017, we’re not going to be pulling the rug out from anyone.”
Nov 10th - 6:45 am
From the Morning Memo:
As Rep. Chris Collins left the stage following his victory speech Tuesday night, Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy gave voice to what plenty of people in the room were privately thinking about the Buffalo congressman’s future.
“He might be the Secretary of Commerce by January. Who knows?” Langworthy quipped.
Since Collins became the first sitting congressman to endorse Donald Trump for president in February, he quickly emerged as a top surrogate for the now-president-elect, making regular appearances on the cable TV news circuit and staunchly defending the nominee – even during his campaign’s darkest days.
Now that Trump has beat the odds with his surprise victory, political observers have been speculating about what Collins might gain from his loyalty.
With his seat secure for another two years, Collins himself said he plans to be a voice in the Trump administration, but he also left the door open for a cabinet appointment – should one come his way.
Then there’s former gubernatorial candidate and mad-as-hell Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino, a huge Trump supporter from Day One, who jokingly mentioned to me a few months ago that he could be a candidate for U.S. attorney for New York’s Western District. Paladino has a law degree, but hasn’t practiced in years.
The post was recently vacated by William Hochul, husband of LG Kathy Hochul, who, like most Buffalo Democrats, was a big Hillary Clinton booster.
A more likely fit for Paladino might be some sort of involvement with the U.S. Department of Education. Paladino, a Buffalo Public School board member, served as a Trump surrogate on education reform issues during the campaign.
Though he has been light on details, Trump is pushing an agenda that includes more charter schools and a voucher system for students who want to attend private schools. Those are proposals Paladino supports, but he nevertheless insists he has no formal plans to become a member of the Trump administration.
“I don’t need a job; I’m just fine,” Paladino said. “I’m not the one to sit down there and sit behind a desk. That’s not going to work for me anymore, not at this point in life.”
Paladino said he doesn’t lack for work at home in Buffalo, noting he has a stack of paperwork to catch up on at his development company after spending a good part of the past year focusing on Trump’s campaign.
Oct 28th - 12:45 pm
Republican Rep. Chris Collins, a prominent booster of Donald Trump’s presidential bid in New York, does not think the vote on Nov. 8 will be literally rigged through widespread fraud.
But speaking with reporters on Thursday, Collins said the election is “rigged” in the sense the press has been biased in favor of Hillary Clinton over Trump.
“We have never seen a bias the likes of which we are seeing today,” he said.
He pointed to the negative coverage received by Trump for attending the grand opening of a Washington hotel instead of appearing in a battleground state in the final two weeks of the campaign.
“At the same time Hillary Clinton’s at an Adele concert,” Collnis said. “They don’t make mention of that, but somehow Donald Trump going to a grand opening of an historic rehab is not appropriate. I think that’s what when says rigged, that’s what he is referring to. It has not been a quote fair fight.”
The leak of internal Clinton campaign emails has leveled the playing field a bit, Collins said, and he expects Trump will win definitively next month.
Trump has repeatedly raised doubts about the sanctity of the election results next month. In addition to complaining about the media’s coverage of his campaign, Trump has also raised the possibility the vote could somehow be manipulated to deny him a victory.
Elections experts believe such a scenario is highly unlikely given the defuse nature of voting in the United States and rigging a national election through widespread fraud would be close to impossible.
“I am not someone who would believe the election, as in votes, would be rigged,” Collins said. “We all know we do have concerns about folks who should not be voting — illegal immigrants, felons and the like in some states can vote, there’s no ID required in most states — I’m not saying that’s a deciding factor.”
Still, he said doubts will exist if the election is close in battleground states.
“But let’s say a state ended up being within 100 votes,” he said. “I’m sure some people will then, not unlikle Florida a few years back, will come into look to validate what’s going on.”
Oct 12th - 6:15 am
From the Morning Memo:
Members of Western New York’s Area Labor Federation rallied in front of Republican Congressman Chris Collins’s office Tuesday evening. In response to Trump’s comments about women late last week, the union members are calling on Collins to withdraw his support for Trump.
Local AFL-CIO President Richard Lipsitz said the recording of Trump was not the only reason they were rallying – just the latest.
“It was a pretty egregious example of what we’ve been saying about him from the very beginning. He has a mean streak in him. He’s a bigot of all kinds. He obviously has a strong misogynist streak,” he said.
Collins has been steadfast in his support of the Republican nominee. He said he doesn’t plan to back away from his role as a top surrogate for Trump.
“It’s not surprising to us but we’re here to appeal to his better nature, none-the-less,” Lipsitz said.
The congressman said while he respects the union members’ right to protest he believes their support for Hillary Clinton is misguided. Collins said it was Clinton-endorsed trade policies that sent union jobs out of Western New York.
“How was NAFTA? That’s Hillary Clinton’s plan. Trans-Pacific Partnership, we’ll lose more of our jobs. If you want jobs in infrastructure, if you want jobs in manufacturing, Donald Trump is the only candidate who has a plan to bring those jobs back to the United States,” he said.
Lipsitz said that’s not the experience he’s had with the Democratic nominee. He said when Clinton was a U.S. Senator for New York, she stood up for area labor.
Meanwhile, he said Trump’s record in the private sector has been clearly anti-union.
“He has a track record. In New York he was notorious for short-changing contractors who worked for him, many of whom had union workers on the job. We know he hired immigrant labor that was not legal in this country to undercut wages. We know he’s against increasing the minimum wage,” Lipsitz said.
Oct 11th - 4:38 pm
Republican leaders have been left straddling an apparently widening chasm between presidential nominee Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. A day after Ryan said he would turn his attention away from the presidential campaign and focus on keeping the House majority, Trump unleashed on the Speaker on Twitter. Trump called Ryan “weak and ineffective,” said he was “disloyal” and complained the lack of support was making things difficult for his campaign.
“Mr. Trump likes to tweet in the early morning hours. I don’t know. I suggested we should take his phone away but that’s for his family to deal with,” Rep. Chris Collins, the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Trump, said.
The New York Republican, Collins, said he doesn’t believe members of his party are being forced to chose sides though. He said Ryan has never been a strong supporter of Trump anyway, and his job has always been to maintain the majority.
“I think this is probably the best for everybody,” he said. “Let Paul Ryan focus on maintaining the majority in the House. He’s doing a very good job with that. Let Donald Trump and those of us that are aggressive supporters of Donald Trump, stand with him as we march forward the next four weeks to victory.”
Collins also does not believe Ryan’s job is in any jeopardy should Trump win. Rep. Tom Reed, R-New York, agreed saying the Speaker’s job is safe because he’s earned the respect of the other members.
“He is clearly one of our true thought leaders in the Republican party and I respect the work he has done in regards to the policy work and leading our conference as he has,” Reed said.
As for Ryan’s concerns that the Trump Access Hollywood tape scandal could affect down-ballot races, Collins didn’t see it that way. He said Trump supporters will come out en masse and vote for Republicans, regardless of how vocal they are for the nominee.
“Trump supporters, truly, are constitutionalists. They know they’ve got an obligation to vote. They’re not going to skip over a person because they may not be a strong supporter of Donald Trump. They know the importance of the Republicans maintaining control of the House of Representatives and the Senate,” he said.