Congress

Collins Keeps Medicaid Takeover Alive

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants the American Health Care Act to die.

Rep. Chris Collins, however, wants to keep at least part of it alive: A measure that would require the state to takeover the county share of the Medicaid program.

“Despite today’s result, this process has provided the opportunity to push for reforms vital to Western New York, specifically my amendment to force Albany to end its unfunded mandate on New York’s counties once and for all,” Collins said in a statement. “I will continue advocating for that critical measure going forward and will remain resolute in my commitment to the taxpayers in my district.”

Collins, in the statement, said he is “extremely disappointed” with the bill being pulled on Friday in the House.

Faso Calls For Pragmatism In Health Care Debate

Rep. John Faso on Friday in a radio interview pleaded to his conservative colleagues in the House of Representative to take a more pragmatic view of the health care debate, even while acknowledging the measure could change.

“Nothing is carved in stone,” Faso said on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom on Friday morning. “But what we’re saying is the country can’t afford the level of growth in an opened-ended structure.

Asked about the opposition to the American Health Care Act from more conservative elements of the House Republican conference on the right-leaning Freedom Caucus, Faso said, “I do think we have to be pragmatic in how we approach this.”

Faso, along with Rep. Chris Collins, has sought to play a key role in the shape of the legislation, adding an amendment that would require the state to take on the county-level costs of the Medicaid program in New York.

The amendment has put Collins and Faso both at odds with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, who has railed against the provision and its impact on New York. The measure would not take effect until 2020.

Nevertheless, the acrimony over the proposal remains.

“I particularly disagree with the fake news numbers that have come out of Gov. Cuomo’s office,” Faso said.

It’s unclear if Republicans have enough votes to pass the measure today. President Donald Trump has called for a vote today on the bill after the House GOP leadership postponed action on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Faso’s legislation wasn’t able to get all New York House Republicans on board, and it remains unclear how many may vote for the bill.

“The situation is fluid and I wouldn’t want to get out in front of a colleague,” Faso said.

Rep. Reed’s Office Overrun By Protesters

Protesters took over Republican Rep. Tom Reed’s Geneva office Wednesday afternoon. As of 2:40 p.m., a spokesperson for Reed said staff was attempting to address their concerns and use of office property.

Photos provided by the congressman’s office show a few dozen people both inside and outside the office space on Exchange Street. Based on the photos and social media posts, the demgeneva1onstration appeared to be part of the International Women’s Day “A Day Without Women” protest.

“As the office is overtaken by protesters, I hope those constituents we help every day will not be hindered by this disruption to our operations, as I care deeply that those individual needs are addressed. These are real people with real problems and we cherish the opportunity to be helpful,” Reed said.

Reed’s office said protests have been occurring at many of the offices around the 23rd District and noted the congressman is planning four Town Hall meeting this weekend to hear constituents’ concerns.Geneva

Trump Speech Gets Mixed Reviews From WNY Delegation

From the Morning Memo:

By most accounts, President Donald Trump set a more moderate tone during his first joint address to Congress than he has during his first 40 days in office. Yet Trump’s speech continued to polarize the Western New York congressional delegation – some of them among his most ardent supporters and others regular critics.

Start with Rep. Chris Collins, the first sitting congressman to endorse Trump and the congressional liaison to his transition team, who commended the president for already delivering the change he promised during his campaign. Collins said Trump has taken action to return “stolen jobs” from Mexico and Chine and secure the nation’s borders.

“If we are going to restore the hope of the American Dream for our children and grandchildren, tough choices need to be made. Unlike our last president, President Trump acknowledged that reality, and outlined a clear vision for us to overcome the challenges we will face. We are going to fight for the American worker, respect the rule of law, and harness the endless potential all Americans possess,” he said.

Southern Tier Rep. Tom Reed pointed to similar issues with jobs and the border and also noted the health care system as priorities he and the president share.

“President Trump called on all Americans to put our differences aside and work together to rebuild our country. Our President gave a sincere speech outlining a bold plan to move our country forward by empowering the American people,” Reed said.

Meanwhile, platitudes was the word of the evening for local Democrats. Congressman Brian Higgins, Buffalo, and Congresswoman  Louise Slaughter, Rochester, believed there were plenty of of them but not much substance in Trump’s address.

“In the United States of America facts matter, accountability matters, and policies that seek to satisfy the greater good of all people matters. Generations before us toiled to lay the foundation for this good and generous nation. We must not forget the sweat, tears and sacrifices that have contributed to a more perfect union as we continue the fight to do better each and every day,” Higgins said.

Slaughter ripped the president and Congressional Republicans for utilizing the “seldom-used” Congressional Review Act to get rid of protections enacted by Barack Obama’s administration.

“Rather than help our workers, the president is pursuing an agenda that helps billionaires. I will keep fighting to protect health care reform, Medicaid, and all programs that actually help working people,” she said. “At the same time and for the good of our national security, I will also continue working tirelessly to hold President Trump and his administration accountable for their unprecedented financial conflicts of interest.”

D-Trip Twitter Ads Casts GOP House Members As Empty Chairs

image004The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Wednesday is releasing a trio of social media ads knocking three Republican House members from New York, casting them as empty chairs at town halls in their districts.

The ads, to be released on Twitter, are being directed at freshman upstate New York Reps. John Faso and Claudia Tenney. A third ad knocks Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is in his second term.

All three are considered to be in “battleground” districts.

“Representatives Zeldin, Faso and Tenneys’ reckless votes to rip apart the Affordable Care Act without a replacement is causing widespread backlash at home,” said DCCC Spokesman Evan Lukaske. “These digital ads expose them for being shameless enough to take people’s healthcare away and for running scared from their constituents.”

To be sure, Tenney and Faso have been hesitant to embrace a sweeping repeal of health care law, saying in recent weeks they want to proceed cautiously so as to not disrupt patients’ care.

The ads come, however, as Republican officeholders around the country have returned to their districts to face protests and angry crowds upset over the move to repeal the law. Those who have not held town hall-style events in person have also been criticized.

An organized protest against Faso’s fundraiser at the Fort Orange Club has been planned for this afternoon.

Tonko Says Town Halls Help With Constituent Out Reach

While Republicans in Congress have returned home to energized and contentious town hall events (if they hold them at all), Democrats have largely sought to harness the activism from their base in the early days of Donald Trump’s presidential administration.

The town hall events — in which constituents express fear and frustration with what changes Washington may make to their health care among other issues — are the flip side of the coin from 2009, when Democrats in battleground House districts faced similarly angry crowds.

“I think there’s a lot of activism out there right now,” Rep. Paul Tonko told me in an interview before a town hall event at Schenectady Community College. “I don’t know if I’d focus it on the Democratic Party. I think there’s a lot of people who are very concerned at the point we’re at and how we’re responding or not responding to various issues.”

You can watch the full interview here.

As TWC News’s Mike Howard reported later in the evening on Monday, the Albany-area Democrat did indeed face a large and energized crowd, albeit a comparatively friendly one.

And he didn’t necessarily agree that Democrats are having their own version of a tea party-infused moment, even as they are unsettled over income equality and a rollback of liberal gains made under President Barack Obama.

“Whatever the dynamics they’re producing a chemistry out there that’s very energized,” Tonko said. “I think it’s important for us to tap into the energy so we can understand the dialogue and propose the solutions.”

Meanwhile, Tonko is yet to endorse in the upcoming vote for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, but indicated he may choose a candidate soon.

“I have not. I know it’s coming close,” he said. “I’ve been paying attention to the start of session.”

NY Lawmakers Tout Pre-Existing Conditions Bill

At least two New York Republican House members on Friday announced they had signed onto a law that would preserve insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

The measure — backed by Reps. Dan Donovan of Staten Island and Elise Stefanik of the North Country — would keep in place a core, and popular, tenant of the Affordable Care Act.

“I have said all along that we must keep the parts of the Affordable Care Act that are working as we fix our broken healthcare system, and this legislation to protect those with pre-existing conditions is a critical component of our health reform package,” Stefanik said. “A 21st century healthcare system protects those who need care, and I am pleased to support this commonsense legislation as we work to build a healthcare system that increases access and lowers costs for families and businesses across our district.”

Backing for the bill also comes as House Republicans are moving forward with a repeal of the ACA, with a gradual reduction in Medicaid funding to states that participated in the program’s expansion.

Conservative members of the House GOP caucus want to move forward with a full repeal of the law, but members from moderate and contested seats may likely feel pressure to keep aspects of the measure in place.

“Patients suffering from serious conditions shouldn’t be forced to choose between receiving medical care or going bankrupt,” Donovan said. “This legislation will ensure that every American has access to the health coverage they need, regardless of their health status. I look forward to helping pass this bill and will continue working to support real solutions that provide quality and affordable healthcare.”

Collins Says He Didn’t Violate Insider Trading Rules

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.

NY-25: POTUS Endorses Slaughter

The re-election campaign for veteran Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-New York, got a major boost a day before polls open. President Barack Obama endorsed Slaughter in New York’s 25th congressional district race.

Obama pointed to Slaughter’s record on issues like Medicare and Social Security, a woman’s right to choose, college affordability, and environmental protections, as reasons for his support.

“Congresswoman Louise Slaughter will fight to defend the progress we’ve made over the past eight years. I trust Louise to keep fighting for all the things we believe in,” he said in a statement. “Our children need us to keep working to make this country stronger, fairer, safer and cleaner, and Louise will do just that.”

The president is also sending out a robocall to voters in Slaughter’s district urging them to support her Tuesday.

“I am proud to receive President Obama’s endorsement,” said Slaughter. “We have worked side by side over the years to tackle some of the biggest issues we face, from improving our infrastructure to expanding health care coverage to creating good-paying jobs and transforming our economy. President Obama’s time in office will be remembered for positive change that has touched every American. I am proud to have fought for the progress we’ve made under his leadership, and I’m honored to have his support in this race.”

Slaughter is in the midst of a high-profile battle against Republican Mark Assini, currently the Gates town supervisor. Assini came within 1000 votes of Slaughter in 2014.

NY-24: House Super PAC Releases Second Ad Knocking Deacon

The House Republican super PAC that has played a role in key congressional races this year has released its second ad 24th district in central New York.

The Congressional Leadership Fund on Tuesday released a spot criticizing Democratic candidate Colleen Deacon was unprepared to handle threats against the country, primarily from so-called “lone wolf” terrorist attacks that were seen in Florida, Minnesota and California.

“When it comes to our nation’s security, Colleen Deacon doesn’t know the answer. In fact, voters can hear it from Deacon herself,” said Ruth Guerra, spokeswoman for CLF. “Whether its supporting the dangerous Iran deal or fighting ISIS at home and abroad, Colleen Deacon has demonstrated she isn’t prepared. New York families cannot afford to risk their security with a novice like Colleen Deacon.”

The ad, airing on cable and broadcast TV, is part of an $800,000 expenditure the PAC is spending in the Syracuse-area House district where Republican Rep. John Katko is running for a second term.

The PAC is also running GOTV efforts and digital advertising in the district.