Chris Collins

Rep. Collins Calls Cuomo A ‘Bully’ An ‘Extortionist’ And A ‘Blackmailer’

Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY, criticized the governor following a press conference in Depew today, for suggesting part of the difficulty with the budget this year was uncertainty with the federal government. Gov. Andrew Cuomo specifically pointed to the potential impact of the so-called Collins-Faso Amendment earlier this week.

“The audacity of him saying, I can’t get a budget passed because something might happen six months from now with a federal budget is called kick the can, point a finger, place blame. I’d say to Governor Cuomo, look in a mirror. There’s only one person to blame for the budget being late and sir, it happens to be you,” Collins said.

When asked about the governor’s concern over having to bring legislators back for a special session if there were a shortfall, Collins said Cuomo was exaggerating. For instance, he said if his amendment to shift Medicaid costs from the county to the state, were part of new healthcare legislation, it would only require the governor to find 1.5 percent savings in the budget.

Collins called it the most bloated budget in America and claimed he could find billions of dollars in savings if he were asked.

“All this governor is doing is what he does. He overstates it. He’s a blamer. He’s blaming his incompetence on anything he can and now it’s the Collins-Faso amendment, which by the way would fix county budgets in New York for the next five decades,” Collins said.

The congressman said Cuomo is attempting to use the budget to sneak in legislation on policy and give himself unilateral authority over economic development dollars.

“Let’s call it out for what he is. He’s a thug. He’s a bully. He’s an extortionist. He’s a blackmailer. He wants all the authority,” he said.

UPDATE: Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul responded on behalf of the administration Wednesday afternoon.

“Once again, inside trader-turned Beltway insider Chris Collins has difficulty telling the truth. Collins cynically sold out his constituents and continues to try and slash their healthcare, raise their taxes and threaten New York’s finances in order to fund a bloated defense budget. New Yorkers aren’t stupid and he’s fooling no one,” Hochul said.

NY-27 Democratic Chairs Already Seeking Opponent For Collins

From the Morning Memo:

There’s well over a year and a half until the next election for New York’s 27th congressional district, but the eight county Democratic chairs in the area are already recruiting a candidate to run against incumbent Republican Rep. Chris Collins.

The new initiative called “Turn 27 Blue” is a joint effort with grassroots organizations, according to a press release.

Democratic leaders said there is unprecedented interest in next year’s congressional elections, which is why they are starting earlier than usual. Collins is one of President Donald Trump’s congressional supporters – he was the first member of the House to endorse the then-reality-TV-star-turned-candidate’s run – and also happens to represent what is considered by many as the safest Republican district in the state.

“We decided a systematic approach will help to make the process more accessible to all who might be interested and give our eventual nominee the greatest chance for success; getting started now helps, too,” Livingston County Democratic Committee Chair Judith Hunter said.

Hunter is coordinating the effort on behalf of the other county chairs. They are encouraging any and all interested candidates to reach out to them.

“I will take care of sharing all the materials with everyone, and we will decide, based on how many inquiries we get, whether it makes the most sense to meet with potential candidates individually or to hold larger workshops,” she said. “Rep. Collins has just been so unresponsive to his constituents that everyone is eager to get started.”

Among the grassroots groups involved is Citizens Against Collins, the organization behind several billboards calling on the congressman to hold a town hall meeting in his district – a call he has so far refused.

“We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work to help those who are willing to stand up and become candidates. It’s great to be part of this effort,” said organizer Michelle Johnston Schoeneman.

Collins did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

DCCC Targets Faso/Collins For ACHA Support

Upstate Republicans Chris Collins and John Faso are among 14 members of the U.S. House of Representatives the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting in a new digital ad campaign. The ads criticize the congressman for moving the failed American Health Care Act forward in their respective committees.

Collins is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee while Faso is on the Budget Committee. The 5-figure ad buy, which starts today, will be featured on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“This targeted ad campaign makes clear that every House Republican who voted in committee for this devastating Republican repeal bill will be held accountable from now through Election Day,” DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján said.

He goes on to say in statements that both Collins and Faso both “knowingly voted for a bill to raise premiums and deductibles, slap an age tax on older folks, and rip insurance away from 24 million hardworking Americans.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee said only 13 percent of American want to keep the current health care law as is, referencing a Morning Consult poll from this month.

“John Faso and Chris Collins should be applauded for pushing forward the debate on this disastrous law and putting the spotlight back on the need for property tax relief across New York State,” NRCC spokesman Chris Pack said.

Collins Predicts AHCA Will Pass

From the Morning Memo:

Despite infighting among House Republicans, Rep. Chris Collins said in an exclusive interview last night that believes the Affordable Care Act replacement bill will be passed today.

Collins said the Trump team reminded the House GOP conference behind closed doors last night on Capitol Hill that if the bill isn’t passed, the president would move on to tax reform. And if so-called “Obamacare” is left as is, the GOP will own it.

“Come 2018, you will see 50 percent increases in premiums,” said Collins, a longtime Trump ally. “There are several counties that don’t have a carrier right now for 2018, let alone 2019, and they may try to blame Obama and Pelosi. But we’re the governing body today, and all someone is going to know is that if they can’t get insurance next year is that it’s the Republicans who are in charge.”

Collins also defended his amendment that would shift the counties’ share of Medicaid to the state – a move designed to appeal to his fellow moderate upstate House members and would only apply to New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has described the idea as “radical conservative ideology in Washington” and tantamount to declaring war on his state

Collins, in turn, said Cuomo is “bullying” elected state officials and hospitals to issue public statements criticizing the idea.

“These guys react to this governor because he controls those purse strings,” the congressman said. “He has sharp elbows, who I’ve basically called a thug and an extortionist.”

After it became clear he didn’t have enough support to pass it, House Speaker Paul Ryan called off a vote on the AHCA yesterday that was scheduled to coincide with the seventh anniversary of the Affordable Health Care Act’s signing. All eyes will be on Washington today to see if a vote takes place, as the White House has insisted.

Slaughter Joins Collins Bashing Brigade

Rep. Louise Slaughter is the latest high-profile New York Democrat to criticize Western New York Republican Chris Collins for his role in the crafting of the American Health Care Act. The congresswoman called an amendment Collins made to the proposed legislation, which would effectively force the state to take on the counties’ shares of Medicaid, costs a gimmick.

Slaughter said the House plan would result in New York losing billions of dollars in federal funds and jeopardize hospital stability.

“Shifting the local cost share to the state is a political sleight of hand – if Republicans steal billions from New York to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy it doesn’t matter if taxpayers have to cover the cost at the county or the state level. Either way, Congressional Republicans are proposing New Yorkers pay for their terrible plan, and with this amendment, they would be sending our state a $4.7 billion bill,” she said. “If Rep. Collins thinks that’s a good deal, he’s not a very good businessman or representative for our state.”

Earlier this month, Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul ripped into the Collins amendment for it’s potential cost to the state and Governor Cuomo echoed many of those same sentiments yesterday.

Collins, meanwhile, has the support of the New York State Association of Counties and this past weekend touted the plan in a press conference with Erie and Niagara County leaders.

Collins Invites Constituent To Meet With Him During Live Town Hall Show

From the Morning Memo:

One of the constituents from New York’s 27th Congressional District who has been clamoring for a town hall meeting with Western New York Republican Chris Collins, got a chance to put her congressman on the spot Tuesday night. Renee Sutton traveled from her home in Canandaigua to New York City where Collins was a guest on The Messy Truth with Van Jones.

On the show both the host and members of the audience get a chance to ask questions. Sutton’s exchange with Collins took place live during the broadcast.

“How do you justify your appearance here tonight, national audience, here on CNN, outside of our district with an audience not consisting entirely of your constituents, when the actual people you represent are asking to meet with you and you’re refusing to do it?” she asked.

Collins responded that he meets with hundreds of his constituents every week at his district offices and in Washington. He maintained the stance he’s had for weeks now, that he’s never seen the value in large meetings where individuals protest and shout, in contrast to an actual give and take.

“These aren’t productive,” Collins told Sutton. “I would invite you to make an appointment. Let’s sit down in my office and talk about any issues that you have and I can promise you that will happen.”

Sutton seemed skeptical of his offer and after the congressman extended it for a second time, she asked him to please respond to her emails requesting a meeting.

That was the last exchange during Collins time on the program. Prior to Sutton’s question he spoke to the audience about health care, immigration and the opioid epidemic.

Collins, the congressional liaison for the Trump Transition Team, did appear to break from the administration on a few issues. Among the highlights he told Jones that apparent major cuts in funding to Meals on Wheels in the president’s proposed budget were not his plan. He noted he oversaw the program when he was Erie County Executive.

“Meals on Wheels is a wonderful program. It is one I would never vote to cut even one dollar.”

Democratic Party Chairs In NY-27 Condemn Collins Upcoming CNN Appearance

On the same day Western New York Republican Chris Collins will appear for a town hall on CNN, the eight Democratic county chairs in his congressional district are criticizing the choice. Rep. Collins will be on the Messy Truth w/ Van Jones tonight.

The Democratic chairs said it’s an insult to the voters in his district. Collins has refused to appear for a public town hall-style meeting in NY-27 despite demonstrations and even a billboard campaign asking him to do so.

“Mr. Collins has repeatedly insisted he has no intention of holding such a meeting, even calling town halls ‘useless.’ But when invited to appear on a cable television program with a studio audience in New York City that will not represent his constituents, Rep. Collins jumped at the chance,” the party leaders wrote.

They said Collins may find out the concerns of a New York City audience, where the show is taped, but he is continuing to avoid the people who vote for him.

“That is unacceptable, and that’s why we will support a vigorous campaign to replace Chris Collins in 2018 with someone who will actually represent New York’s 27th District,” the chairs said.

Collins spokesperson Michael McAdams said the congressman saw the Van Jones show as an excellent opportunity to discuss important issues in depth. He said voters in the 27th district will be able to hear exactly where Collins stands.

“Hardworking families won’t need to take time off to attend. They can simply turn on their televisions to CNN Thursday at 9pm,” McAdams said.

Collins: Bharara ‘Misread’ Conversation About Keeping His Job

From the Morning Memo:

Rep. Chris Collins, a Buffalo Republican and staunch ally of – and frequent surrogate for – President Donald Trump – said he’s had no issue with the way now-former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Preet Bharara did his job, but thinks perhaps he expected too much when it came to sticking around.

“I would say Preet Bharara’s done a pretty good job from everything I’ve seen in going after folks regardless of party affiliation, but he is a Democrat appointed by President Obama,” Collins said.

The congressional liaison for the Trump transition team similarly said he had no issue when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked Bharara to resign Friday. He said it’s common for a president to want to appoint a new team in the Justice Department, and Bharara should have honored the request – regardless of what transpired at Trump Tower last fall.

“I find it a little disturbing that Preet Bharara at the end of the day wouldn’t tender his resignation,” Collins said. “I think he was unique in that, so the president had no choice but fire him.”

As for Bharara’s indication that both Trump and Sessions had asked him to stay on, Collins believes he must have been mistaken, adding: “I wasn’t part of that conversation; obviously he misread it.”

Rep. Collins’ Office Responds To Lieutenant Governor’s Criticism

Less than two hours after New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul released a biting 700-word criticism of Rep. Chris Collins’ proposal that states assume county Medicaid cost, Collins office fired back. A spokesperson for the Buffalo-area Republican congressman said Hochul has sold out Western New York to “protect the Albany insiders she now serves.”

The congressman has proposed an amendment to the House Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act that would ban federal reimbursements for state Medicaid funds raised by counties. Hochul said between the amendment and the repeal, the state would face $4.7 billion in new costs which would result in more income tax.

Collins said New York spends 44 percent more per Medicaid beneficiary than the national average. Counties are required to pay 13 percent of the cost, but Collins said because of the state’s spending, it’s a major burden.

“Hard-working families are tired of footing the bill for New York’s out of control Medicaid system that is putting our counties on the brink of bankruptcy,” spokesman Michael McAdams said. “The good news is taxpayers can count on Congressman Collins to fight for them by refusing to feed Albany’s penchant for wasting our tax dollars.”

New York City would continue to be responsible for its share of the costs. The New York State Association of Counties has sided with the congressman, saying the amendment would provide real mandate relief.

“We are disappointed that the state’s lieutenant governor, who has been a friend to counties, would oppose an action that would reduce property taxes and take a position against the state’s county government partners. The governor’s administration can’t have it both ways. They cannot keep shifting costs to counties and force us to continue paying for their programs on the hand, and then demand lower property taxes on the other,” Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario said.

This isn’t the first time Hochul and Collins have gone back forth about policy. In 2012, they ran a very close congressional race in New York’s 27th District, with Collins ultimately winning.

Immigration Executive Order Revises Biometric Scan Screenings

From the Morning Memo:

It was a small change that could have a big impact on Western New York: President Donald Trump’s revised executive order regarding immigration once again included a call to expedite biometric screening at the U.S. borders.

Instead of applying to all travelers, however, version 2.0 only calls to scan “in-scope” travelers. There doesn’t seem to be a clear definition of what that means, but in previous federal documents it refers to travelers who are not from the U.S. or Canada.

Not long after the original executive order went into effect, Rep. Chris Collins, a staunch Trump supporter and frequent surrogate for the administration on national TV, wrote a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security expressing concern about what measures like fingerprinting and retina scans at the border could mean for Western New York.

The Republican Buffalo-area congressman said he believed this could cause backups at the northern borders, making it harder for his constituents to travel and also hurting his district’s economy.

Collins said the revised executive order is good news, and he took some credit for making the changes happen.

“I was happy to play a small role in ensuring President Trump recognized the concerns of Western New Yorkers regarding the potentially devastating delays the previous Executive Order would have caused along our Northern border,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Customs broker Damon Piatek remains concerned. He said even if it’s only a select group of people who are being screened, it will still increase wait times at the border and discourage potential visitors

“Anytime you put in an additional barrier and thicken that border, you’re going to see less travel, which is going to hurt our economy here in WNY,” he said.

Meanwhile, Buffalo Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins said biometric scans would cost DHS roughly $6 billion. He said it’s always been a bad idea and narrowing the focus doesn’t improve it.

“We should be removing the barriers between the United States and Canada, particularly at the Peace Bridge,” Higgins said. “So much of our economy in Western New York is dependent on reliable, predictable access to southern Ontario.”

The executive order does not set out a specific timeline for implementation.