Dec 4th - 5:54 pm
It turns out Assemblyman Keith Wright was correct when he said earlier this week that veteran Harlem Rep. Charlie Rangel will be making an announcement “sooner rather than later” about whether he’ll seek yet another 23rd term in 2014.
What Wright was not (ahem) right about, however, is that Rangel has already made a decision about running. Not only is the congressman still considering retirement, but he has also started to meet with potential successors.
“I had thought about retirement very, very seriously and it’s not off the table,” Rangel told our Washington, D.C. Bureau reported Michael Scotto today.
“But the truth of the matter is I have to give people that want to aspire to fill the vacancy – which it would be if I retired – time to raise the money and get known throughout the district, and I meet every week on this issue with different candidates, and those I haven’t met with I’m meeting with this weekend.”
“…I’m talking with some people seeing whether or not there can be some coalition around a candidate as it has been for the last 43 years,” Rangel continued. “But before Christmas I’ll have to make some decision.”
Wright, who chairs the Manhattan Democratic Party and co-chairs the state Democratic Party, is frequently mentioned as a potential successor to Rangel. The assemblyman unequivocally told the New York Post that the congressman “is running,” adding: “You can’t keep a war horse down.”
While speaking to Scotto, he shied away from saying he is seeking his own replacement, but did hint that somebody – and he refused to name names – around whom he thought a coalition could be built recently decided they’re no longer interested in the job.
“That person decided that they have other political ambitions, and I had worked with that person for a number of years, but I have to respect their decision,” the congressman said. “I say all of that to say that I was left without a possible successor that had already done these things – knowing all the community leaders.”
Despite being censured for ethics violations in 2010, Rangel won a hotly contested Democratic primary in 2012. His toughest challenger was Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who is widely expected to run again next year.
Nov 26th - 11:50 am
A House ethics panel re-affirmed it would step aside to allow the Department of Justice continue its investigation of Republican Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm in the ongoing probe over his campaign finances.
“The Department of Justice has asked the Committee to continue to defer consideration of this matter and the Committee, following precedent, agreed to continue to defer consideration of this matter at this time,” the committee said in a statement Tuesday. “At least annually, the Committee will make a public statement if it continues to defer taking action on the matter. The Committee notes that the mere fact of conducting further review of a referral, and any mandatory disclosure of such further review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee.”
The panel announced last year it would investigate whether Grimm broke campaign finance laws through a straw donor system and made promises to an Israeli citizen who wanted help receiving a green card in exchange for collecting contributions from an influential synagogue.
While the DOJ won’t confirm an investigation of Grimm is underway, the panel’s statement today indicates the probe of Grimm is still ongoing a year later.
Nov 20th - 5:05 pm
Queens Democratic Rep. Grace Meng said in a statement this afternoon she was not seriously injured after she was attacked and robbed in Washington, D.C. Tuesday evening.
Meng’s office said in a statement she resumed regular activities on Wednesday following a trip to George Washington University Hospital for a CAT scan.
Her office says Meng was walking to her apartment after having dinner at a D.C. restaurant when she was struck in the back of her head near Sixth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.
Meng’s attacker stole the lawmaker’s handbag and then fled on foot. Meng suffered a bruised chin following the attack.
“While this was a frightening ordeal, I fortunately was not seriously injured,” Meng said in a statement. “Obviously, things could have been much worse. I thank the U.S. Capitol Police and the District of Columbia Police for responding quickly and professionally.”
Nov 15th - 2:54 pm
Republican former John Sweeney hasn’t been in office for nearly seven years, but his campaign committee lives on.
Only the Federal Election Commission says Sweeney, who was unseated by Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand in 2006 in the older 20th Congressional District, hasn’t been filing the necessary reports.
In a letter to Sweeney, the FEC is asking that he hasn’t met the requirements for properly terminating his campaign committee.
The letter was first flagged by the Center for Public Integrity.
At the same time, Sweeney’s former campaign committee is also settled with more than $200,000 in debt that it must still pay off.
Settling old campaign debt is a requirement for ending a federal campaign committe’s account.
“Please provide clarifying information regarding the outstanding debts and obligations disclosed on your Termination Report,” the letter says.
Since losing his seat, the Clifton Park Republican has worked both as a lawyer and an advisor to several GOP candidates.
Nov 12th - 11:04 pm
Add Rep. Bill Owens to the growing list of lawmakers who want President Obama to put an end to the recent wave of insurance policy cancellations.
The North Country Democrat, who is no doubt thinking about his tough re-election battle next year, announced that he will vote with Republicans on a legislative fix that would allow people to keep the insurance they currently have.
“I intend to vote for H.R. 3350 on Friday,” Owens told me in a statement. “While I am not convinced this legislation fully solves the problems consumers are facing, it is a step in the right direction.”
The recent news that people have been dropped from insurance plans that don’t meet the enhanced Obamacare requirements has not only been a public relations nightmare for the White House, but it has put the President’s integrity on the line.
In the lead-up to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama repeatedly promised Americans that they would be able to keep the coverage they had and liked.
The screw-up led to a rare Presidential apology last week.
But Republicans, on a mission to kill the President’s health care law, want much more. They quickly drafted legislation to be voted on Friday that would allow insurers to continue selling their old plans.
Adding to the pressure on the White House is Bill Clinton. The former President, in an interview released Tuesday, urged the President to stop the cancellations.
The White House opposes the House plan, but is said to be working on its own fix.
It’s unclear how many Democrats will vote with Republicans on Friday. Back in July, 22 Democrats, including swing district Reps. Dan Maffei, Sean Patrick Maloney and Owens, supported a Republican plan to delay the implementation of the individual mandate.
The plan went nowhere in the Senate. However, the political pressure now is far more intense than it was just a few months ago.
Nov 1st - 5:30 pm
A second New York Republican House member in as many days has declared his support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, also known as “ENDA” – a measure to ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity that is moving toward passage in the US Senate.
A spokeswoman for Rep. Tom Reed confirmed to our Washington, D.C. Bureau reporter Michael Scotto that the congressman does support ENDA.
This comes on the heels of an announcement by Reed’s GOP colleague, Rep. Chris Gibson, that he has signed on to co-sponsor ENDA, making him the fifth Republican and 194th House member to attach his name to this bill.
Both Reed and Gibson are top targets for the Democrats heading into the 2014 elections. Gibson is facing a challenge from Democratic activist Sean Eldridge, who is married to Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes; and Reed is being challenged by Tompkins County Legislature Chair Martha Robertson.
Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed cloture on ENDA, setting the stage for a vote to proceed to debate on Monday. With the arrival of the Democrats’ newest member, Sen. Cory Booker, there are now 59of the 60 votes needed to move the bill to the floor for debate. Reid has said he believes ENDA will receive at least five Republican votes, and the entire Democratic confernce has signaled support.
The outlook for this legislation in the House is a different matter completely, since the Republicans control the chamber and have shown no interest in taking action on ENDA.
So, from a political standpoint, this is an almost risk-free move by both Gibson and Reed, since they can point to their support of this bill as proof that they are pragmatic and not, as their opponents insist, in cahoots with their Tea Party colleagues, without having to worry about actually taking a controversial vote to back up their claims.
Nov 1st - 2:21 pm
Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who spends a lot of time excoriating the Tea Party Republicans he says have hijacked the agenda in D.C., spent some quality time today with one of the state Senate’s most conservative – dare I say, Tea Party-esque? – members: Sen. Greg Ball.
Maloney and Ball teamed up for what was billed as a “Main Street Listening Tour” of Mahopac, Putnam County, which happens to be located in both of their respective districts.
Ball sent out a press release touting the event, complete with the photo that appears here and the following quote from the senator:
“The Mahopac business district is a vital economic corridor in Putnam County. I am happy to work together with Congressman Maloney to enhance the small business climate for business owners and residents not only in Mahopac, but for the entire Hudson Valley Region.”
“Our ma and pa shops in Mahopac have so many wonderful goods and services to offer, they also have a unique insight into the red tape and obstacles that government often creates. I look forward to continuing my friendship with Congressman Maloney as we work in unison for a brighter and more prosperous future for all our constituents.”
The congressman had this to say:
“Small businesses are the backbone of communities like Mahopac and drive economic growth in the Hudson Valley. I ran my own company – I know how difficult running a business can be. Unfortunately, many small businesses in the Hudson Valley still face bureaucratic hurdles and government red tape.”
“I am eager to roll up my sleeves and partner with our local business leaders, Senator Ball and Assemblyman Katz to reduce unnecessary regulations and help our hardworking business excel and grow.”
While railing against the Tea Party, Maloney spends a lot of time promoting himself as a political pragmatist, sometimes voting against his own party and with the GOP in order to demonstrate the sort of independence that plays well in his closely divided Hudson Valley district.
Maloney is facing a likely rematch against the woman he ousted in 2012, Republican Nan Hayworth, who has been raising campaign cash and loaning herself money as she gears up for another run.
Ball and Hayworth have a history of not getting along terribly well.
As you may recall, he was toying with the idea of primarying her back in 2012, and spent a lot of time publicly criticizing her on a variety of issues, but ultimately decided to seek re-election for his Senate seat instead.
Oct 31st - 11:40 am
As Liz reported in the memo earlier today, Rep. Chris Gibson is pivoting to the left and signing onto a federal bill that would ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
A spokesperson for the Hudson Valley Republican tells me that Gibson decided to become a co-sponsor of The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, known as ENDA, after listening to constituents last week.
“Congressman Gibson met with a group of constituents in Washington last week who asked him to consider cosponsorship of ENDA,” said Gibson spokeswoman Stephanie Valle. “The Congressman and our legislative staff reviewed the legislation, and agreed it matched the Congressman’s support for our Bill of Rights and equal protection under the law as well as largely squares with existing New York State law. Given the thousands of bills introduced each Congress, this demonstrates why we welcome meeting with constituents in Washington and New York State. Hearing directly from New Yorkers about their support for legislation gives our office the opportunity to review a particular bill that is important to a constituent and consider it for support.”
The bill is likely to be voted on by the Senate next month, provided it gets enough votes to clear a procedural hurdle. At this point, there is no sign that the Republican-controlled House will ever take it up.
Gibson’s decision to support the bill comes as he prepares for a 2014 battle against Democrat Sean Eldridge, who is gay and married to Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.
“Supporting ENDA is a step in the right direction, but unfortunately Congressman Gibson has a failed record when it comes to ensuring equal protection under the law for all New Yorkers,” said Morgan Hook, a spokesperson for Eldridge. “He was a defender of the military’s discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy,’ and he voted to support federal discrimination under DOMA. More than two years after New York State passed the freedom to marry, Congressman Gibson continues to oppose marriage equality for committed same-sex couples. Sean Eldridge has been a leader in the fight for equal treatment under the law for all families. Our region deserves a member of Congress who will lead on issues of fairness and equal protection the law – not someone who will catch-up when it’s politically advantageous.”
Despite being considered one of the more liberal Republicans in the House, Gibson has a weak record on gay rights, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Gibson does support civil unions.
How do other Republicans facing strong Democratic challengers feel about the bill? We reached out to Reps. Michael Grimm and Tom Reed, but have not heard back from their spokespeople.
Update: Gibson decided to support the bill after meeting with five members of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, known as PFLAG, in his Capitol Hill office last week. The meeting came about after Dale Bernstein, a Ghent resident and national board member of PFLAG, reached out to Gibson shortly after the government shut down in early October.
“[Gibson] jumped on the meeting right away,” said Bernstein, describing how Gibson’s staff quickly put the wheels in motion for a face-to-face sit down with the congressman. “He was engaged. He was interested.”
Bernstein had previously met with Gibson’s staff, but that was two years ago, before Gibson had to face a well-heeled opponent in Sean Eldridge. Bernstein, however, said Eldridge and the 2014 election did not come up at all during the meeting.
“I did not get the sense that it was political,” said Bernstein.
The meeting lasted an hour and touched on other gay rights issues, including same-sex marriage. Gibson supports only civil unions, but Bernstein said the Republican congressman listened to their pitch.
“I hope his position is evolving,” said Bernstein, who has a gay son who recently got married.
Bernstein left the meeting unsure of what Gibson’s ultimate position on ENDA would be, adding “I was taken by surprise that he signed on as a co-sponsor that quickly.”
Now that he is behind the bill, Bernstein, undecided about next year’s election, said she is open to voting for him.
“He has moved way up on the list,” said Bernstein.
Oct 23rd - 5:02 pm
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is breaking with his party and calling on President Obama to hold someone accountable for the failed rollout of a key website for the Affordable Care Act.
The Hudson Valley Democrat’s comments mirror those by his Republican colleagues. The website, launched on October First, allows people in 36 states, though not New York, to shop for insurance ahead of next year’s mandate that individuals carry health coverage. It has been riddled with technical glitches that may undermine that President’s signature achievement.
“I want people to stop sugar coating it and focus on making this policy work,” said Maloney. “And making the policy work for families in the Hudson Valley is a lot more important than defending against criticism or playing a political game or protecting someone’s job.”
Maloney first made the comments during a telephone town hall meeting yesterday. He represents a swing district that Republicans are trying to reclaim.
When I asked Maloney whether Heath and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius should be asked to resign, he responded: “That’s up to the President, but I believe there needs to be accountability. And I believe making the policy work is more important than protecting someone’s job”
Maloney is calling on the Administration to extend the open enrollment period for every month the problems remain unfixed. Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire was the first Democrat to call for such an action. Publicly, nearly every Democrat is backing the Administration’s position to stay the course. Earlier this year, Maloney supported a House Republican bill that would delay the law’s individual mandate.
Practically speaking, the botched rollout hasn’t impacted New York all that much, since the state is operating its own health insurance exchange website. But Maloney’s comments will likely help him politically and insulate him from attacks to be launched by his likely 2014 Republican rival, Nan Hayworth.
Oct 22nd - 6:00 am
Today’s Siena poll finds three-fourths of New Yorkers have an unfavorable view of Congress, and by a 74-19 percent margin, think that the country is headed in the wrong direction.
And, much like the national polls have shown, as the most recent round of fighting in Washington was concluding, voters in the Empire State blamed the Republicans in Congress by a two-to-one margin for the mess, and not the Democratic president.
Congress came within one point of tying the Siena College Poll record high unfavorable rating, recorded by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer the week he resigned in the wake of a prostitution scandal, according to Siena pollster Steve Greenberg said.
In July 2012, Congress had a particularly bad, 27-67 percent, unfavorable rating. It’s gone from bad to worse, Greenberg said.
On the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare) 43 percent of New Yorkers want to see it move forward as is, 32 percent want to put it on hold until necessary changes can be made and 22 percent want to see it repealed.
President Obama is viewed favorably by 55 percent of voters and unfavorably by 42 percent (down slightly from 57-40 last month).
While 30 percent of voters say the president is most responsible for the shutdown, nearly twice that number – 59 percent – hold Congressional Republicans responsible.
Democrats blame the GOP by eight-to-one, while Republicans blame Obama two-to-one and by a 50-37 percent margin, independents put more blame on the Republicans.
“Not surprising results in a state where there are twice as many Democrats as Republicans,” Greenberg said.
“However, other than Republicans and conservatives, a majority of voters from every region and demographic group place greater blame for the shutdown on the Republicans in Congress.”
On New York’s potential hometown 2016 favorite, Hillary Clinton, two-thirds of New Yorkers view her favorably, and 30 percent view her unfavorably.
She is adored by Democrats and liked by independents, although a majority of Republicans view her unfavorably.