Congress

Tenney Does Not Think Texas’s Farenthold Should Resign

Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney in a Capital Tonight interview said she does not believe Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold should resign after it was revealed he used $84,000 in taxpayer money to settlement harassment complaints leveled against him by a former aide and questioned whether the accusations against him fit the definition of sexual harassment.

Tenney also warned against using harassment allegations as a “weapon” against both Democrats and Republicans.

“I think we have to be very careful. We could be going down a very dangerous road to make every furtive glance or everything become sexual harassment,” she said. “What you’re doing is hurting the real victims of true sexual harassment — victims who have been oppressed and had sex used against them in the workplace.”

The full interview airs this evening on Capital Tonight.

Farenthold, who announced this month he would not seek re-election, was accused of making inappropriate comments to a former press aide, telling her that he had “wet dreams” and “sexual fantasies” about her. The aide said she was later fired after she complained about the comments.

Tenney, however, said the incident does not constitute sexual harassment.

“I think Blake Farenthold is not an example of sexual harassment,” she said. “From what I know he made some off-handed comments that were inappropriate, that were just boorish.”

Tenney said sexual harassment is a “a civil issue. It’s legally defined by statute. It’s a prolonged attempt to use power and control to use sex against a person.”

A range of prominent lawmakers in Congress have resigned or announced plans to step down after allegations of harassment surfaced against them in recent weeks, part of a broader national reckoning with harassment in the workforce.

“We have good people who are being vilified maybe because they were at a party and acted inappropriately once or they made an off-hand remark,” she said. “That doesn’t mean you should resign from your job and be stricken and people publicly chastised. I think there’s a fine line, but we do have to take it seriously with the legislation I’m supporting.”

A former state lawmaker, Tenney said the accusations leveled against members of the Legislature in Albany in recent years was useful in developing proposals to combat harassment in Congress, which she has sponsored.

“I think it was helpful,” she said. “I think it provided for us to have a clear way of running our offices and having that dynamic.”

Slaughter, Faso Back Bill To Honor Hinchey

Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter and Republican Rep. John Faso are backing legislation that would name a post office in Saugerties after the late former Rep. Maurice Hinchey.

Hinchey, a Democrat who served in the House of Representatives until 2013, died in November.

“Maurice Hinchey was a remarkable public servant who had the courage to take on the tough issues,” Slaughter said. “We served four years together in the New York State Assembly and 20 years in Congress. I watched him do what he did best: defend the constituents and land he represented. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to rename the post office in Maurice’s hometown in honor of his extraordinary legacy.”

Hinchey was considered a staunch environmentalist while in office, haven been credited for support of the Clean Air Act and bolstering protections for the Hudson River. He also served in the U.S. Navy.

“Maurice Hinchey was a fierce defender of the environment who was a steadfast advocate for the causes he believed in and the people he served,” Faso said. “I was proud to serve alongside him in the State Assembly. Naming his hometown post office after Maurice will be an enduring recognition of his lifetime of service to the people of Saugerties and Ulster County.”

Syracuse Man Arrested For Threatening Katko Over Net Neutrality

A 28-year-old Syracuse man has been arrested for allegedly threatening U.S. Rep. John Katko, federal prosecutors on Wednesday announced.

Patrick D. Angelo faces charges of interstate communication of a threat and threatening a federal official, which carry a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Angelo is alleged to have left a message on Katko’s voice mail expressing displeasure over the issues surrounding net neutrality, regulations over Internet speed and access the Federal Communications Commission is expected to loosen formally next month.

“Listen Mr. Katko, if you support net neutrality, I will support you,” Angelo is accused of saying in the recording.

“But if you don’t support net neutrality, I will find you and your family and I will kill…you…all. Do you understand?” The message continued: “I will literally find all…of…you and your progeny and t- just wipe you from the face of the earth. Net neutrality is more important than the defense of the United States. Net neutrality is more important than free speech. Net neutrality is more important than health care. Net neutrality is literally the basis of the new society. That even if you don’t understand, how important it is, net neutrality is literally the basis of the new…free…society. So if you don’t support it, I am willing to lay down my li- (recording ends).”

The message was left on the lawmaker’s office voicemail and sent to the U.S. Capitol Police, which investigated it with the FBI.

Katko, a Republican, was first elected in 2014, and is a former assistant U.S. attorney. Security around Katko has been increased as a result of threat.

“While citizens are certainly entitled to communicate their views on issues of importance to them to their elected officials, there are and must be bounds to the manner in which such views may be expressed, said U.S. Attorney James Kennedy of the western district of New York. “We will respond aggressively to those who overstep those bounds and seek to influence the making of Federal policies and legislation by making threats to the lives of those entrusted with such tasks and their families.”

Faso Lukewarm On Including Individual Mandate Repeal

Republican Rep. John Faso continues to have a mixed view on the tax overhaul measure he voted against, saying an interview Friday he wants changes that either preserve deductability for state and local taxes or, at the very least, phase them out on a predictable time table.

“I’d like to see something,” Faso said. “I realize getting the status quo is very difficult given the fiscal realities, but if there were a protection for people and if there was a phase out for a period of years that would at least provide some predictability for people.

“I would like to see changes that accommodate the need for our state taxpayers to be able to continue the longstanding practice of deductability of state and local taxes.”

Faso, a Republican from the Hudson Valley, was one of five Republicans from New York who voted against the plan over the provisions that end the deductability of state and local taxes and cap property tax deductions at $10,000.

At the same time, Faso remained concerned with the House bill ending deductability for medical expenses.

“To take this out from under people as of January 2018 I think would be wrong,” he said.

He was not ready to endorse a provision included in the Senate version of the measure that repeals the individual mandate that Americans purchase health insurance, a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. But he didn’t rule out it, either.

“I’ve felt we that shouldn’t mix the health care debate with the tax debate with the tax debate,” he said. “The individual mandate, however, is a tax. It was so declared by (Supreme Court Chief Justice) Roberts when he upheld the constitutionality of the ACA. I’m going to look at all the numbers. My disposition would be to not include it. But I think we do have to look at the numbers to preserve the deductability for state taxes.”

Faso was singled out for criticism by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday before the bill passed, with the governor suggesting the lawmaker “get out” of Congress due to the measure being approved.

Faso, who like other Republicans from New York said he never spoke to Cuomo directly about the issue, said he was taken aback by the governor’s reaction.

“It really is a head-spinner,” Faso said, “because he attacked the people who voted for the bill and he attacked people who voted against it.”

Faso Voting ‘No’ On Tax Bill

Republican Rep. John Faso in a statement Wednesday said he would vote against his party’s tax overhaul legislation, saying he could not support the measure “in its current form.”

In his statement, Faso pointed to the changes made to deductions for state and local property taxes, which would negatively impact taxpayers in high-tax states like New York.

“The complete removal of the deduction for state income taxes and the limitation on deductions for local property taxes will impact New York families more severely than taxpayers in other states,” Faso said. “While the full SALT income tax deduction for individuals is repealed, full deductibility will remain in effect for corporations and other business entities, thereby protecting taxpayers in states like Texas which rely more heavily on corporate taxes. Since New York taxpayers already send over $40 billion more in tax dollars to Washington than we receive back in federal benefits and services, we are not being subsidized by any state.”

And, in a rebuke to the claims made Tuesday by President Donald Trump’s budget director, Faso said, “Frankly, I resent the accusation that New Yorkers are being subsidized by the rest of the nation, when in fact the opposite is true.”

But at the same time, Faso took a more direct shot Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, two of the state’s most prominent Democrats who have vocally opposed the measure and pushed Republicans in marginal House seats like Faso’s to vote against it.

Faso insisted middle-income taxpayers in his Hudson Valley congressional district would receive a tax cut under the measure.

“However, the statewide impact of the proposal will dramatically and negatively impact state revenues as wealthier taxpayers and their businesses flee New York State to lower taxed jurisdictions,” Faso said.

“These revenue reductions will ultimately hurt our district as the state’s tax base is further eroded. We are already losing people due to the failure of Governor Cuomo to reduce New York’s high tax burden and to honestly address the regulatory climate which is killing jobs and opportunity in our state. The constant call from the political left to ‘tax the rich’ is actually helping to destroy our tax base and jobs for our citizens. However, my dissatisfaction with New York’s status quo, does not allow me to conclude that New York families should become collateral damage in the federal tax debate because Albany refuses to improve the tax and business climate in our state.”

Faso was elected last year to the 19th congressional district, which has been a closely watched House seat for New York and the site of several battleground races since the 2012 round of redistricting.

Faso’s announcement comes after Rep. John Katko, another upstate Republican who represents a swing House seat, said he plans to vote in favor of the bill.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, a GOP lawmaker from Suffolk County, said in a campaign email to supporters he remains opposed to the measure.

A vote in the House on the tax bill is scheduled for Thursday.

Higgins Pushes Bill to Eliminate Records Fees For Vets

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic WNY Rep. Brian Higgins is pushing legislation that would eliminate the fees associated with obtaining military records. He introduced the legislation last week, ahead of Veteran’s Day.

According to the congressman, the Department of Defense transfers a veteran’s service record to the National Archives 62 years after he or she is discharged from the military. A veteran or family member seeking a copy may be required to pay up to $70 – unless the request for documents is made for the purpose of obtaining benefits.

“No veteran should have to pay the government for evidence of their sacrifice and service,” Higgins said. “This fee is inexcusable and should be eliminated.”

Higgins said his office routinely receives requests for military files from World War II and Korean War veterans and their families. He said they often request the information to research family history or determine eligibility for benefits or service medals.

The files contain information about military assignments, qualifications, training and awards received and could also include names of fellow soldiers and details of heroism during battle. On Twitter yesterday, Higgins posted the photo of another $70 order with the veteran’s name redacted.

“Again today, family of a WWII vet is told to pay if they want his military records,” he tweeted.

Higgins said veterans in need of assistance are encouraged to call his office while he works on getting this bill through Congress.

Tenney Has A Pension Stripping Measure For Congress

Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney is nearly a year out of the state Assembly, but she has a bill that seems inspired at least in part by Albany.

Tenney on Monday announced the introduction of a bill that would block members of Congress convicted of corruption from receiving their pensions.

The measure drew on the case of Democratic former Rep. Chaka Fattah who was found guilty of fraud earlier this year.

But in Albany, pension forfeiture has been a hot topic for years. Voters last Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment that would allow for public officials to be stripped of their pensions if convicted of a felony related to their office.

“Loopholes like this enable career politician syndrome and the pervasive culture of corruption that have become the status-quo in both Washington and Albany. The job of a public official is to advocate for their communities and constituents, not benefit from the office they hold,” Tenney said.

“Any elected official who betrays the public’s trust and is convicted of corruption should immediately have their pension revoked. The No Pensions for Corrupt Politicians Act will end a loophole that benefits political elites at the expense of hardworking taxpayers. This bill is the first step of many to reform our government and restore the Jeffersonian ideal of the citizen-legislator.”

The measure also announced just as the jury in the corruption trial of Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey signaled it was deadlocked.

Reed Won’t Support Tax Reform That Completely Removes SALT Deduction

A House GOP compromise to restore a controversial tax deduction in its reform bill was not included in the Senate version released Thursday. House Ways and Means Committee member Tom Reed made it clear full elimination of the State and Local Tax Deduction is not an option in heavily taxed states like New York.

“I will not support legislation that removes completely the ability to deduct State and Local Taxes,” he said.

The House compromise restored the deductibility of property taxes, up to $10,000, while eliminating the income tax deduction. Reed said he’s confident, as the two houses work out their differences, the property component will be restored, potentially with an even higher cap.

He said with 73 Republican members from high-taxed states like New York and California in the House, he sees no scenario where a bill without it could pass. Regardless, he believes plans to get the legislation to the president’s desk by the beginning of next year are still on track.

“We’ve been working on this for seven years. We’ve had numerous hearings in the House and the Senate. Tax reform hasn’t been done since 1986, 31 years ago. It’s time to get this done.”

Reed and his colleagues on Ways and Means passed the House bill from committee Thursday. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sharply criticized the action and said, according to polling, the plan is unpopular with voters.

“The Republican Tax Scam is nothing more than huge tax cuts for the rich and big corporations, paid for by tax increases on millions of middle class families,” DCCC Spokesman Evan Lukaske said. “Representative Reed’s decision to push forward with this Tax Scam despite strong opposition from hardworking Americans will haunt him at the ballot box in 2018.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also took aim at the Southern Tier congressman. In a press release, Cuomo said nearly 60,000 taxpayers in Reed’s district would be affected by the reform plan, seeing an average increase of more than $2,500.

The congressman said he’s taking a look at the claims but doesn’t believe the governor has his numbers right.

“My conclusion of the data is that it’s completely false. That is not accurate. That’s manipulation of the data in order to serve his political message that he’s trying to deliver here and you know the name-calling and everything else that he wants to engage in, you know, I’m going to set that aside,” he said.

Aside from the elimination of the SALT income tax deduction, Cuomo also said the elimination of the tax-free nature of private activity bonds will kill jobs and prevent critical infrastructure projects.

NRCC Says NYC Dems Attempting To Influence NY-19

From the Morning Memo:

The National Republican Congressional Committee is calling attention to an issue it appears will continue to be a major talking point in NY-19 for the coming year. Carpetbagging.

The Republicans say Democrats without deep roots in the district are leading the way in an effort to unseat incumbent freshman Republican Rep. John Faso, a Kinderhook native.

First there are the efforts of the NY-19 Votes campaign. The coalition of activists and members of the Democratic and Working Families parties launched a second website, Smart Vote NY, urging people with second homes in swing districts to register to vote there.

As the Albany Times Union reported last month, many of those targeted were downstaters with vacation homes in regions like the Catskills.

The NRCC said it recently learned about another organization called Get Organized Brooklyn coordinating with NY-19 Votes. The organization apparently is sending letters to residents of the district, asking them to mail Faso and call on him to protect the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and Medicare.

In one example forwarded to Capital Tonight, a person claiming to be a volunteer from Brooklyn criticized Faso’s vote in favor of the failed GOP American Health Care Act.

“I don’t live in the district, so he isn’t going to listen to me,” the voluteer wrote. “He has to listen to you.”

NRCC spokesman Chris Martin said voters deserve to know more about these groups. He quickly connected them to the efforts of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who have vowed to join forces to campaign against congressional Republicans in the midterms.

“Andrew Cuomo and his liberal allies in New York City are desperately trying to bring their far-left agendas to the 19th district,” Martin said. “Voters won’t be fooled by their shady political tactics.”

Martin also noted that, according to elections records, three of the six Democratic candidates currently hoping to unseat Faso were registered to vote outside of NY-19 as recently as last year.

They are: Pat Ryan, Brian Flynn and Antonio Delgado. All three campaigns confirmed their past registration, but argued it did not mean they were outsiders.

Ryan said he grew up in Kingston, and left to attend West Point and serve two terms in Iraq. He was registered to vote in New York City in 2016.

“When I was deployed in Iraq, every care package I opened from my mom’s first-grade class in Kingston reminded me that this community has always had my back,” Ryan said. “I’m proud of my deep roots here and am unapologetic about leaving to serve my country. Now I’m running to continue my service to this community and our country.”

Flynn’s campaign said he and his family have had a home in Hunter for more than a decade, and his family has lived in Greene County for more than three decades. Last year, he rented an apartment in NYC to take care of his mother with Alzheimer’s and registered to vote there during that time.

“When the care for his mother was settled late last fall, he was able to move permanently to Hunter and changed his voter registration to reflect that,” Flynn’s spokesperson Carolyn Riggs said.

Delgado meanwhile, was registered to vote in New Jersey last year. He said he and his wife, Lacey move, back to upstate New York to raise their children near their grandparents.

“I’m from Schenectady where both my parents worked for GE,” he said. “Lacey was born and raised in Ulster County and both of her parents have been small business owners there for over 40 years. We got married in the Catskills. This is where our families realized the American Dream and this is where we are fighting to make sure all families have the same opportunity.”

NRCC Shoots Back At Cuomo On SALT

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to criticize House Republicans for their support of a tax reform plan that could include the elimination of the State and Local Tax deduction, the Nation Republican Campaign Committee is firing back. Yesterday, Cuomo singled out Congressmen Tom Reed and Chris Collins for voting in favor of the House budget – the only two from New York to do so.

Reed and Collins have both publicly acknowledged eliminating the SALT deduction could have a negative effect on homeowners in their district and have vowed to look at possible compromises. Cuomo though, said in letting a plan move forward that even contained a possibility of the elimination was being “derelict in their duty to represent New Yorkers.”

The NRCC said the governor is passing the buck in blaming the GOP.

“Andrew Cuomo refuses to take responsibility for a fiscal crisis he created. As New Yorkers of all income levels flee the state due to excessive state income and property taxes, Cuomo continues to blame others for his policy failures in Albany,” pokesman Chris Martin said. “Cuomo’s inability to cut taxes and control spending at the state level is clearly weighing down his delusional presidential aspiratons and forcing him to blame House Republicans.”

UPDATE: In Response the Governor’s spokesperson Rich Azzopardi posted a graphic showing Cuomo has increased state spending by significantly lees than any governor in the last 50 years.