Mar 24th - 6:15 am
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.
Mar 21st - 12:36 pm
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.
Mar 17th - 5:45 am
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.”
Mar 16th - 3:39 pm
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.
Mar 14th - 5:45 am
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.”
Mar 10th - 5:55 pm
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.
Mar 8th - 6:30 am
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.
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.