Congress

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.”

Pelosi Makes Fundraising Push for Slaughter

Taking a breaking from the budget madness for a moment to focus on the 2016 congressional elections…(yes, I know they’re far away).

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent out a fundraising appeal over the weekend on behalf of veteran Rochester Rep. Louise Slaughter, whose near loss in the 2014 general election by her under-funded and little-known Republican challenger, Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini, took Democrats both in New York and across the nation by surprise – especially after Slaughter survived a tough challenge in 2012 from a far better known GOP opponent, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks.

Clearly, the Democrats do not intend a repeat of this experience when they try to re-take the majority in 2016, should the 85-year-old Slaughter seek yet another term. Assini has already signaled an interest in a rematch, and Slaughter has not ruled out running again.

In her email sent Sunday morning, Pelosi said she needed to talk about “my friend Louise,” who “won by just 871 votes last year, attracting the attention of Speaker Boehner and every mega Tea Party donor across America.”

“The first FEC deadline of the year is arguably the most important one, especially after such a close call in November,” Pelosi continued. “Louise’s opponent will be scouring this FEC report for any sign that Louise is weak. She must shatter records before her deadline on Tuesday.”

“Louise needs our help…We need more people like Louise in Congress. But apparently Republicans think we need less—and they’re prepared to put their money where their mouth is. That’s why I’m asking you to help Louise fight back now – before it’s too late.”

According to Pelosi, the DCCC is matching all contributions to Slaughter of $3 or more – yet another sign that the Democrats aren’t fooling around this time, taking this race seriously.

And if Slaughter doesn’t run, they’ll have to defend an open seat. Technically speaking, that should be a fairly easy lift for the Democrats in a presidential year, since they enjoy an enrollment edge in NY-25, but it all depends on who the candidates are – and, of course, you can’t forget that all politics are local.

It’s also worth noting, though this is completely unrelated, that Slaughter is appearing today with US Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is the favorite to succeed retiring Sen. Harry Reid as the next Democratic caucus leader in the upper house. The duo is together for a dedication ceremony at the Rochester Main Post office in honor of SPC Matt Glende

Judge Nixes Grimm’s Euoprean Travel Request

A federal judge has rejected frormer Rep. Michael Grimm’s request to modify the terms of his bail so he could travel to Europe this spring for a job opportunity while awaiting sentencing on his tax fraud conviction.

Judge Pamela Chen determined that the ex-Staten Island lawmaker is too much of a flight risk to be allowed to leave the country for a week, which would open the possibility that he would travel still further to a country that does not have an extradition agreement with the US.

“Even though Grimm has posted his home as security for his pre-sentence release bond, the Court does not find that the loss of that property provides sufficient suasion if Grimm decides to leave the United States to avoid a possible prison term,” Chen wrote.

“Obviously, if Grimm chose to flee, he would not need a house in the United States. Furthermore, the Court does not find the reason for Grimm’s motion, i.e., to qualify for a potential job opportunity, sufficient to justify lifting the travel restriction. While Grimm is certainly entitled to seek future employment, his desire to obtain a particular job does not trump the need to ensure his appearance for sentencing.”

Grim faces a maximum prison sentence of up to three years as a result of the guilty plea he entered last December. That plea came after he successfully stood for re-election, defeating former Democratic Brooklyn Councilman Domenic Recchia despite the mutli-count federal indctment hanging over his head.

Ex-Rep. Michael Grimm denied required to modify bail to travel to Europe. by liz_benjamin6490

Independence Party Backs Donovan in NY-11

The state Independence Party has announced its support of Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan’s run to fil the House seat vacated by former GOP Rep. Michael Grimm, giving the Republican candidate three ballot lines in the May 5 special election.

The Independence Party’s decision comes on the heels of an announcement yesterday from the state Conservative Party that it, too, had voted to back Donovan, who will face off against Democratic Brooklyn Councilman Vincent Gentile in two months.

In a statement announcing the endorsement, state Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay said Donovan “has proven time and again that he puts people before politics,” adding:

“His integrity and commitment to public service is unparalleled. With all of the important issues facing our city and nation right now, I know Dan is the right man for the job. We are proud to endorse him as the next congressman for the people of Staten Island and South Brooklyn.”

When he ran for state attorney general in 2010, Donovan removed his name from consideration for endorsement by the Independence Party after his office received “several allegations of misconduct” by MacKay. The DA said he was withdrawing his name “to preserve the integrity of my office and the integrity of any possible investigation undertaken.”

Donovan later cleared MacKay in a probe that involved a candidate seeking the Independence Party endorsement in a NYC Council special election whose company had loaned $10,000 to a software company run by MacKay’s wife, Kristin.

The Independence Party ended up backing a placeholder candidate, Long Isdland attorney Steve Lynch, and then replacing Lynch with then-state Sen. Eric Schneiderman after his won the five-way Democratic state AG primary. Schneiderman went on to defeat Donovan in the November general election. (In order to get Lynch off the ballot, the Monroe County Democrats agreed to nominate him for a state Supreme Court judgeship, which he did not win).