Stefanik, Katko Sign On To Letter Urging Against Government Shutdown

stefanikprofileTwo Republican members of New York’s congressional delegation have signed on to a letter urging the GOP conference in the House avoid a government shutdown through at a the very least a temporary resolution.

The letter, signed by nine freshman House members from around the country, was backed by Reps. Elise Stefanik and John Katko — two lawmakers who were elected last year and represent battleground districts in upstate New York.

“With less than two weeks until the September 30 deadline to fund federal government operations, we are writing today to express our strong support for a funding resolution that will avoid another unnecessary and harmful government shutdown,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “We believe Congress should complete its work and provide funding for the federal government through September 30, 2016, but we are willing to support a short-term resolution that will give both the House and the Senate the additional time necessary to negotiate final spending numbers.”

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Stefanik Signs On To Gibson’s Climate Change Resolution

stefanikprofileRepublican Rep. Elise Stefanik is the latest lawmaker to join fellow GOP lawmaker Chris Gibson in backing a resolution that acknowledges climate change is caused by human activity and should be combated.

“Climate change is a serious issue that we must address and I am proud to join Congressman Gibson on this resolution,” Stefanik said. “This resolution strikes the careful balance between the priority of addressing the global threat of climate change and the importance of protecting and creating American jobs. New York’s 21st district is the proud home of the Adirondacks and we understand that protecting our environment plays an important role in promoting economic growth and opportunity.”

Stefanik, like Gibson, represents a district that has been considered an electoral battleground over the last several election cycles. More >

Higgins Latest House Dem To Back Iran Agreement

higginsA day after it became clear the international nuclear agreement with Iran will be approved in the U.S. Senate, Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins of Buffalo announced he will support the agreement.

Like other lawmakers in favor of the agreement, Higgins acknowledged it was not ideal, but said the “benefits outweigh the costs.”

“I analyze every proposal that crosses my desk not based on whether it will achieve a perfect outcome, but rather on whether its benefits outweigh the costs,” he said in a statement this morning. “I believe the JCPOA meets that test. This agreement will do more than any plausible alternative to accomplish America’s objective of blocking Iran’s pathway to a bomb in a way that we can verify. For this reason I will vote to support the JCPOA when the question comes before the House.”

The yes vote from Higgins comes after a number of New York congressional Democrats have lined up behind the agreement, including Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, Yvette Clarke, of Brooklyn; Nydia Velazquez, of Brooklyn; and Greg Meeks, of Queens – also deciding to vote “yes” on the deal. More >

Reps. Velazquez, Meeks Will Vote ‘Yes” on Iran Deal

Two more members of New York’s congressional delegation announced their support for the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran today, bringing the total number of “yes” votes in the state (so far) to six.

Reps. Nydia Velazquez, of Brooklyn; and Gregory Meeks, of Queens; both announced their respective decisions via press release. (The congresswoman will be a guest on “Inside City Hall” on our sister station NY1 tonight to discuss her position further with host Errol Louis).

“In analyzing this agreement, my fundamental and primary concern was ensuring we stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Velazquez said. “An Iran with a nuclear bomb would present an existential threat to Israel, be a destabilizing game changer for the entire region and directly threaten and undermine U.S. security interests. It is a scenario that the world absolutely must avoid.”

Meeks said:

“This is not a perfect deal. There has never been a perfect deal or one that gives the parties to it everything they want. Despite the risks, the agreement has the support of the United Nations Security Council and most countries world-wide. Critically, key partners in the Middle East region and most of our allies consider the JCPOA an important next step after years of coordinated sanctions and diplomatic efforts to push Iran to the negotiating table.”

“… If this plan fails because Iran violates the deal, sanctions will snap back into place. If it succeeds, Iran’s break out time to acquire a nuclear weapon would be significantly extended from the current two to three months to at least oneyear (and this would be 10 years from now at the earliest). Its stockpile of enriched uranium would be reduced by ninety eight percent, and there would be more information about Iran’s program than ever before.”

Prior to these announcements, just four of New York’s House members – Reps. Jose Serrano, of the Bronx; Jerry Nadler, of Manhattan (the lone Jewish member in this column); Paul Tonko, of Amsterdam; and Louise Slaughter, of Rochester – said they supported the deal, while 14 oppose it and the remainder have not yet expressed a position.

The deal has also divided New York’s two US senators, with Chuck Schumer opposed and Kirsten Gillibrand supporting.

It’s possible the House and US Senate could pass a resolution blocking the president from lifting sanctions on Iran, but it appears unlikely they could muster the two-third vote in both chambers necessary to override the veto he has pledged will be forthcoming if they go that route.

Rice Opposes Iran Deal

riceIn an op/ed posted on the website of the 5 Towns Jewish Times on Monday, Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice wrote that she opposes the multinational nuclear agreement with Iran.

Rice called the agreement “a risk I cannot support” even as she predicted it will ultimately be approved.

“This deal represents a pause, not an end, to Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon,” Rice wrote in the op/ed. “While no deal or action – whether economic, diplomatic, or military – can ensure a disarmed Iran in perpetuity, this deal’s search for peace seems too willing to gamble on social progress in Iran, especially when Iranian leaders show little interest in helping to foster it – and even less in becoming anything near a responsible ally in the region.”

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Grimm Sentenced To 8 Months

Republican former Rep. Michael Grimm on Friday was sentenced to eight months in prison after pleading guilty to a count of tax evasion.

Grimm vacated his Staten Island House seat in December following the guilty plea.

In addition to the prison term, Grimm was sentenced to one year of supervised release and 200 hours of community service.

Federal prosecutors had actually sought a longer term for Grimm, arguing the ex-lawmaker deserved at least two years in prison.

The federal government charged that Grimm had failed to report more than $1 million in wages while running a restaurant in Manhattan that specialized in health food.

Grimm was re-elected in November to a third term despite the pending tax evasion charges.

A special election to fill the seat was won by Republican Dan Donovan.

A Letter From Congress Gets A Snarky Reply From Cuomo Aide

A letter from members of the state’s Congressional delegation supporting stronger rent control protections garnered a sarcastic reply in response from an aide in the Cuomo administration’s Washington, D.C.-based office.

In the letter, House Democrats who represent New York City in Congress urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to support strong rent control regulations, similar the measures adopted by the Assembly, which backed a package last month ending vacancy decontrol.

In response, Cuomo special counsel Alexander Cochran sent a sarcastic reply in an email address to staff as well as Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Queens Rep. Grace Meng.

Cochran’s response, in full:

Chiefs and LDs
Great letter. Didn’t realize the federal delegation was supposed to be used as a state lobbying vehicle. Second time in two weeks. Looking forward to seeing letters to the Mayor on state and city issues. Happy to give you suggestions.

The email was sent this afternoon, a day after the letter was made public.

Cuomo himself has called for stronger rent control regulations and wants to at the very least modify vacancy decontrol. Cuomo has said he will keep the Legislature in Albany beyond the scheduled final day of session if an agreement isn’t reached on the rent issue.

Cuomo is trying to tie an extension of rent control to the passage of the education tax credit, a measure staunchly opposed by the state’s teachers unions and some Assembly Democrats.

Members of New York’s House delegation has been marshaled to support state issues before that Cuomo supports.

The governor’s office recently released a list of House members from across the state who backed his Enough Is Enough campaign, which is aimed at curtailing rape and sexual assault on college campuses as well as strengthening reporting.

In another instances, House members signed on to support Cuomo’s effort to reform the state’s juvenile justice system by raising the age of criminal responsibility.

Cuomo is said to have a cool relationship with the delegation.

Long Island Rep. Steve Israel, the former leader of the House Democrats’ fundraising effort, blamed Cuomo last year for not doing more to help down-ballot candidates.

Democrats in 2012 also felt slighted when Cuomo didn’t spend much time with the New York delegation during a rare trip to D.C. to lobby for aid related to Hurricane Sandy.

Cuomo Rent Laws 2015 by Nick Reisman

AFL-CIO Assails Rep. Rice’s Fast Track ‘Flip Flop’

The AFL-CIO today slammed Long Island freshman Rep. Kathleen Rice for dropping her long-standing opposition to giving the president fact track trade authority, calling her reversal a “slap in the face to all those who counted on her to represent them, not corporate interests, in Congress.”

Rice outlined her decision in a blog item posted on The Hill Saturday morning, saying she had changed her mind after doing her “homework” and listening to President Obama make a “compelling case” for why he needs fast track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“I have always supported organized labor and always will,” Rice wrote. “From prosecuting labor law violators, to advocating for a minimum wage increase to fighting outsourcing and erosions of their power to bargain collectively, I’m proud to be an advocate for the working families and union members that form the backbone of our workforce.”

“But when it comes to trade in an increasingly competitive global marketplace, those of us who truly care about American workers have to modernize our thinking and objectively evaluate deals outside of the shadow of past failures. Killing fast track and TPP won’t kill NAFTA any more than handing President Obama a setback would hand one to Bill Clinton.”

The AFL-CIO, which endorsed Rice last year during her successful run for the seat vacated by former Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, was not buying the congresswoman’s argument, accusing her of showing “blatant disregard for the needs and concerns of all working men and women.”

“The Labor Movement is united in standing up for good jobs, better working conditions and higher wages,” AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said in a statement released Saturday afternoon. “We thought Rep. Rice stood with us. Clearly she has now chosen corporate interests over workers and has decided to put American jobs at risk.”

“Her betrayal will not be forgotten. Sadly, constituents are now left to wonder which Kathleen Rice they voted for – the one who promised to fight for working families in Nassau County – or the one who ignores their needs as soon as she gets inside the beltway.”

Three days ago, Obama said he believed he had 20 Democratic votes in the House for the bill to grant him fast-track authority to negotiate new trade deals. It’s unclear exactly how many votes from his fellow Democrats he’ll need, because through Republicans are generally supportive of free trade, many are reluctant to give the president more power.

In recent days, the left has stepped up pressure on House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has not publicly stated her position on key elements of the president’s trade agenda.

Wright To Announce House Bid On Saturday

Democratic Assemblyman Keith Wright on Saturday will officially announce his plans to run for outgoing Rep. Charlie Rangel’s House seat.

Wright will be making the announcement in the Bronx at a prayer breakfast alongside former governor and state Democratic Committee Chairman David Paterson as well as the Rev. Calvin Butts.

The Harlem state lawmaker earlier this year was a brief candidate for Assembly speaker following the resignation of Sheldon Silver.

Wright quickly bowed out of the race and endorsed Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie, who eventually succeed Silver in the speaker’s chair.

Wright is also the chairman of the influential Assembly Housing Committee and has backed legislation that would include a prevailing wage component in the 421a tax abatement renewal.

There’s no word as to whether Rangel himself will make an appearance at the Wright event.

The veteran lawmaker, who retires at the end of his current term, raised eyebrows in May when he made an appearance at a fundraiser for former Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV last month, a two-time rival.

Rangel unseated Powell’s father to first win his House seat in 1970.

Syracuse Mayor Won’t Run For Congress

Stephanie Miner, the Democratic mayor of Syracuse and one-time state party co-chair, said in a statement on Friday she has considered a run for Congress, but ultimately will not launch a campaign.

“For several months now, encouraged by fellow Democrats locally and nationally, I have considered a run for Congress,” Miner said. “After much thought, I have decided not to pursue a campaign for Congress.”

The central New York area is represented by freshman Republican Rep. John Katko — a district that has reliably flipped between Democrats and Republicans over the last several election cycles.

Miner came to prominence statewide after she began to raise concerns with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s approach to cash-strapped cities and their infrastructure needs while serving as the governor’s hand-picked party committee co-chair.

The statement may fuel speculation that Miner has her sights set elsewhere, potentially on a statewide campaign. In the statement, Miner said she is focusing on Syracuse issues.

“I will always be grateful for the support and counsel I have received these past few months,” Miner added. “I feel I am actively involved in a series of issues crucial to the long-term health and vitality of our city. I look forward to continuing to advocate for these issues in the years ahead.”