Faso Part Of Delegation Trip To Israel

Rep. John Faso will take in a bipartisan delegation trip to Israel starting today and running through Aug. 13, his office on Monday announced.

The trip will include visits to the security fence, the Gaza border, the Golan Heights and Israel’s border with Lebanon.

Faso is also due to meet with leaders on both the Israeli and Palestinian side — including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a representative of the Palestinian Authority.

Faso is a freshman Republican who represents the 19th congressional district in the Hudson Valley.

Higgins Steers Clear Of Trump Tweet Talk

From the Morning Memo:

Buffalo-area Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins took a different kind of stand Thursday than many of his congressional colleagues.

A spokesperson for Higgins said he had no interest in responding to President Donald Trump’s tweet, personally attacking “Morning Joe” host Mika Brzezinski.

Trump called the MSNBC anchor Low IQ Mika and said she was bleeding badly from a face lift when he saw her on New Year’s Eve. Democrats quickly shot back at Trump including House Minority Nancy Pelosi.

“@realDonaldTrump’s tweets today are sexist, an assault on the freedom of the press & an insult to all women. Apologize!” Pelosi wrote on Twitter.

Members of the Republican Party also said the comments were inappropriate. Speaker Paul Ryan said politicians are trying to improve the tone in Washington and the tweets did not help do that.

Southern Tier Congressman Tom Reed told CNN he was concerned with that kind of language too.

“Well, obviously, I was just made aware of that tweet. I don’t know the context of the exchange. But obviously, I’m concerned about that type of language,” he said. “Maybe the intent is to distract from the health care debate. But I want to be part of the debate that’s impacting the American people.”

Nonetheless, Higgins steered clear of the topic when Spectrum News reached out to his office.

“Honestly, with urgent threats to flight safety, including the Senate bill approved today that strips pilot training requirements, and the legislation that is on the verge of taking health coverage away from people who desperately need it we have much bigger concerns than the President’s outrageous tweets,” his spokesperson Theresa Kennedy said.

The congressman did later speak with the station about legislation in the Senate he said would water down pilot experience requirements.



NY Pols React To Virginia Shooting

New York’s congressional representatives reacted with shock and sadness on Wednesday after a shooting in a Virginia park left Republican Rep. Steve Scalise injured.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with members of congress, staff, and police who were victims of this shooting,” said Rep. Tom Reed of the Southern Tier. “The police officers who were on the scene are truly heroes for jumping into action and stopping the shooter before the situation escalated even further.”

Added Republican Rep. John Katko, “I’m deeply saddened by this morning’s shooting. My thoughts and prayers are with my good friend and colleague, Steve Scalise, and all affected. As always, I am incredibly grateful for the service and bravery of the U.S. Capitol Police, who put their lives on the line every day.”

Scalise is reportedly in surgery after he shot by a gunmen in the hip and is in stable condition. The shooting occurred during a congressional softball practice at a suburban park in Virginia earlier this morning. Members of his security detail were also shot, according to reports.

“Praying for Congressman Steve Scalise, our U.S. Capitol Police and all who were hurt this morning,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik. “My staff and I are safe and accounted for.​”

NRCC Responds With ‘Ziti’ To Cuomo Effort To Take Back House

Perhaps foreshadowing of what we could see should Gov. Andrew Cuomo emerge as presidential candidate in 2020, the National Republican Congressional Committee was quick to bring up the governor’s dirty laundry following a report that he plans to get involved with the 2018 congressional mid-terms.

In a blog post, the NRCC called Cuomo’s effort to take back the House “an ambitious goal after his former campaign manager/best friend was caught using Sopranos code words like ‘boxes of ziti’ for ‘money’ while orchestrating pay-to-play schemes in Albany.” The reference, of course, is to former aide Joseph Percoco who was one of eight men indicted in connection with a bid-rigging and bribery scheme involving state contracts.

“First Clinton, now Cuomo? We almost feel bad for Democrats hoping their party would get a fresh start in 2018…” NRCC Regional Press Secretary Chris Martin wrote.

The New York Daily New reported that the governor will kickoff his campaign in support of House Democrats with a rally Tuesday at New York City’s Washington Square Park.

WNY Congressional Democrats Cite CBO In Criticizing GOP

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic congress members in Western New York said the Congressional Budget Office has confirmed their fears and suspicions about the American Health Care Act. The CBO released its long-awaited scoring of the AHCA on Wednesday everybody ening.

The office said the legislation, which House Republicans passed earlier this month, will insure 23 million less people by 2026 than would be insured under the Affordable Care Act. Democrats quickly pounced on the statistic as well as other portions of the report.

“The CBO has also confirmed that it would gut protections for people with preexisting conditions, causing their premiums to skyrocket and pricing many people of the market entirely. House Republicans have been waiting for this CBO score before advancing this bill. Instead of sending it to the Senate, they should put it in the shredder where it belongs. It is past time for Congressional Republicans to listen to the American people and come together to improve the Affordable Care Act,” Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY, said.

Congressman Brian Higgins said the report confirmed what Democrats already knew about the bill, calling it “bad generally” and worse for people who need health care the most.

“The AHCA is an assault on hard-working Americans who play by the rules and simply want to know that when they or their family member gets sick or injured, insurance will be there to cover their needs in a way that keeps access to care affordable.”

House Republicans will point to another piece of information from the CBO. The AHCA is projected to reduce the deficit by $119 billion.

DCCC Adds Reed And Stefanik To 2018 Target List

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is already targeting all but one Republican member of the New York delegation in 2018. The DCCC announced Monday it was adding 20 new districts from across the country to its “battlefield” and among them are Rep. Elise Stefanik’s NY-21 and Rep. Tom Reed’s NY-23.

That leaves Rep. Peter King, NY-2, as the only congressional Republican in the state that the committee is not actively fundraising and recruiting against. In all, the DCCC has targeted 79 Republican-held seats.

“House Republicans’ midterm prospects grow dimmer with each passing day thanks to the endless supply of chaos, scandal and broken promises to voters from Republican-controlled Washington,” spokesperson Meredith Kelly stated in a press release.

The DCCC pointed to President Donald Trump’s approval rating as well as the ongoing Russia investigation as important factors that could influence the mid-term election. It also believes competitive special elections for traditionally red seats in Georgia, Montana and Kansas are an “ominous” sign for the GOP.

The Nationals Republican Congressional Committee quickly dismissed that notion.

“Despite losing 1,042 state and federal seats in eight years, national Democrats are still pushing the same divisive rhetoric and painfully out-of-touch liberal agenda,” NRCC spokesman Chris Martin said.

A spokesperson for Reed’s campaign said opposition from the DCCC is nothing new to him. In fact, he noted the congressman soundly defeated candidates recruited and supported by the national organization in his last two elections.

“Tom Reed for Congress is off to its strongest start ever, with record breaking fundraising and grassroots engagement, following two straight double digit victories where the DCCC targeted our race,” said Campaign Manager Nicholas Weinstein. “Our campaign is already up and running and we are confident that our record of caring, common sense conservative leadership and accessibility will continue to resonate with voters across the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes, and Western New York.”

Stefanik’s campaign did not appear to be overly concerned either.

“There will be a time for politics. Now is the time to focus on the hard work of enacting policy and a continued, laser-like focus on putting constituents first. That is exactly what Congresswoman Stefanik is doing,” spokesperson Lenny Alcivar said.

Republicans Lee Zeldin, Dan Donovan, John Faso, Claudia Tenney, John Katko and Chris Collins were identified in the first round of battleground targets.

Report: Congressional Ethics Probe Into Collins’ Stock Trades

From the Morning Memo:

It’s a controversy that just won’t go away for Western New York Rep. Chris Collins, a close ally of President Donald Trump.

Questions about whether the Republican lawmaker behaved ethically regarding his investments in an Australian biotech firm first surfaced earlier this year while Congress was vetting his House colleague, Tom Price, a Georgia Republican, for the position of Health Secretary with the Trump administration.

At the time, both Collins and Price defended their financial interest in the company, Innate Immunotherapeutics, which opponents argued stood to make money as a result of the 21st Century Cures Act. Both congressmen were active in crafting the legislation.

A number of members of Congress, as well as friends and business colleagues of Collins, bought shares of the stock at his recommendation, and he was overheard by reporters last January bragging about how many Buffalo millionaires he helped make.

In the end, though, Price was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and the story – with the exception of occasional murmurs – appeared to lose steam.

But now it’s back with a vengeance. The Buffalo News reported yesterday that investigators for the Congressional Ethics Committee were in Western New York this week, asking investors about Collins’ role in their decision to purchase the stock.

Collins’ office would not confirm the report but did release the following statement to local media outlets:

“Congressman Collins’ relationship with Innate Immunotherapeutics dates back more than 15 years. Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis is one of the most debilitating diseases in the world, and Congressman Collins saw its deadly impact first hand as it affected a close family member.”

“As of now, it has no cure and no relief of symptoms. 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.”

I spoke with a number of Western New York GOP insiders yesterday afternoon, and they indicated the media reports were the first they’d heard of the ethics probe.

While they expressed surprise over this development, they also said they weren’t particularly concerned by it, believing – like Collins himself – that he did nothing wrong.

Another person who said this was the first he’d heard of the report was Craig Holman, a member of good government group Public Citizen. Holman made the initial complaint about Price and Collins.

He said the Office of Congressional Ethics, by rule, would not contact him. Holman said this was the first indication he had that the OCE was investigating.

He did note Public Citizen initially made the complaint four months ago and speculated investigators would not be in the Buffalo-area unless the investigation was nearly complete.


AHCA Passes, Faso And Collins Tout Medicaid Provision

In the moments after House Republicans approved a bill taking the first step of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, Reps. John Faso and Chris Collins touted a provision he helped include: Shifting Medicaid costs from counties to the state government.

The measure is staunchly opposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has railed against the amendment as an unnecessary burden on the state, but has been supported by local governments as a way of reducing a burdensome mandate. Ultimately the shift would not take effect until 2020.

“The AHCA contains a provision I authored to eliminate the ability of New York State as of 2020 to impose Medicaid costs on county property taxpayers,” Faso said in the statement.

“For a typical homeowner or commercial property owner residing in the 19th District, Medicaid costs represent over 40 percent of their county property tax burden. New York’s Medicaid spending dwarfs that of most other states. For instance, New York spends more than Texas and Florida combined, even though these states have more than double our population. The provision I authored will bring much-needed property tax relief and keep people and jobs in Upstate New York.”

The amendment for the Medicaid shift was co-authored alongside Collins, a prominent supporter of the Trump administration from western New York.

Faso was elected last year to the battleground Hudson Valley congressional district vacated by Rep. Chris Gibson and is likely to face a strong challenge for re-election next year.

Collins, however, represents a more conservative district in western New York.

“My commonsense proposal will fix the finances of counties across New York for decades to come and most importantly keep money in the pockets of hardworking Western New Yorkers,” Collins said. “This puts a stop to this massive unfunded mandate coming out of Albany once and for all.”

Only two New York Republican House members voted against the measure: Reps. John Katko and Dan Donovan. Katko, of central New York, and Donovan, whose district covers parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn, represent moderate swing seats.

“The relief needed for local families is not in this bill. The plan would cost seniors more for health care at a time in their lives when incomes are limited and they need health care the most,” Donovan said. “Obamacare is failing and requires major reform. I remain steadfastly committed to replacing it with a plan that truly works for the people I represent.”

Federal Budget Bill Gets Bipartisan Support From WNY Members

From the Morning Memo:

With the threat of a government shutdown looming, House members overwhelmingly passed the Fiscal Year 2017 Omnibus Appropriations Act yesterday. The bill appropriates more than $1 trillion to fund programs through September.

Rep. Brian Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat and a member of the House Budget Committee, applauded the bill, which included $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and hundreds of millions more to research diseases like cancer and Alzheimers.

“This bipartisan agreement isn’t perfect but it is a vast improvement to the White House budget request that would have slashed funding for the Great Lakes, transportation, community development and biomedical research – all of which are areas that support jobs and feed Western New York’s resurgence,” Higgins said.

Republican Rep. Tom Reed, a supporter of President Donald Trump, meanwhile, took a little credit for the funding bill’s passage. Reed, who represents the Southern Tier, is the co-chair of the so-called Problem Solvers Caucus – a newly-formed group that promotes bipartisan solutions.

The caucus, which consists of 40 congressional members, had indicated it would actively support a budget bill as long as it contained no ideological riders,

“I applaud my colleagues in the Caucus from both sides of the aisle, for all their hard work to get this done for the American people,” Reed said. “Their courage to put ‘people over party’ is a great example of what can be accomplished together and what true democracy looks like.”

The appropriations act now moves to the U.S. Senate for review and approval.

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.