Congress

NY-22: DCCC Internal Poll Indicates Tight Race

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said its candidate to challenge the incumbent in New York’s 22nd district is actually the early favorite for the mid-term election. The DCCC released the results Friday of a poll it recently conducted internally.

According to the poll of 561 likely voters, Democrat Anthony Brindisi holds a two point lead over Republican Claudia Tenney. The differences falls well within the +/- 4.1 percent margin of error.

Additionally though, the committee said the current state Assemblyman is strongly favored by women and Independent and unaffiliated voters, which it said will be crucial to the election.

Forty-one percent of likely voters also had an unfavorable rating of Tenney while only 36 percent had a favorable rating. The congresswoman’s campaign pointed out both she and the president had similar unfavorable ratings in a Siena Poll before the election last year, yet both managed to win the district comfortably.

The campaign also criticized the DCCC’s methodology and said its polls have regularly proven to be far off the mark.

“Elections are about choices. Anthony Brindisi is the hand-picked candidate of Andrew Cuomo and Nancy Pelosi. Once voters see where he really stands on the issues, they’ll know he’s too liberal and too corrupt for the 22nd District,” campaign spokesman Tim Edson said.

The DCCC said Brindisi also outperforms a generic Democrat by six points in the poll.

Tenney Hopes For Compromise On SALT

Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney in a radio interview Friday said she hopes there will be a compromise that does not completely end the deduction of state and local taxes.

One compromise could eventual cap deductions, though it remains unclear if that deal would still impact those in the New York City area who have higher incomes that come with a higher cost of living in the region.

“You’re still going to have people caught in the middle,” Tenney said in an interview with Fred Dicker on Talk-1300. “We really want the middle class to enjoy the benefits. Allowing SALT to stay in there or changing gradually over a period of time would be great.”

Tenney echoed what Republicans and Democrats from New York alike have pointed out the state sends more in taxes to the federal government than it receives back in services.

“New York is one of the states that actually receives less than the federal government than they pay out,” she said. “The president wants to help the middle class, but who is paying for the bulk of those taxes, it’s the wealthy.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, too, has railed against the plan to end the deduction and in a statement on Thursday afternoon called on Republicans from New York to block it.

“Republican members of this state’s congressional delegation need to remember they represent the people of New York, and they should not sanction using New York as a piggy bank to finance tax cuts for other states,” Cuomo said. “They must put the interest of their constituents ahead of the interests of their political bosses and stop a reckless proposal that will decimate New York and our hardworking families.”

DiNapoli: No Special Needed If Congress Reverses Health Care Cuts

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week raised the specter of a special session before the year ends to address the deficit caused by federal health care cuts – both already realized and potentially pending.

But state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, New York’s chief bean counter, said during a CapTon interview last night that he doesn’t believe state lawmakers will be forced to return to the Capitol prior to the January start of the 2018 session if Congress reaches a deal in the coming weeks on averting reductions to the Disproportionate Share Hospital payments and Children’s Health Insurance Plan.

“The DSH cuts have been on the table for a long period of time, they keep getting pushed off though,” DiNapoli said. “We’ve heard from some of our Senate leaders, and (Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer) is cautiously optimistic, that Washington they will in fact come to some agreement, if not all, to put off some of these cuts again. So, I think part of what we need to do is to wait and see what gets sorted out in Washington.”

Cuomo has been sounding the alarm about the damage that will be done to New York’s bottom line – a loss of several billion dollars over the next several years alone – if Congress does not reverse funding cuts to safety net hospitals, which took effect Oct. 1. The SHP cuts have been scheduled for some time as part of the Affordable Care Act, but Congress has repeatedly pushed them back.

Congress also failed to reauthorize the program that provides coverage for some 330,000 low-income kids across the state who aren’t eligible for Medicaid. That program, known as CHIP, technically ran its course at the end of September as a result of federal inaction, and New York stands to lose $1.1 billion if it is not reauthorized, the governor said.

And the situation will be even worse, the governor has warned, if the tax reform plan currently under negotiation on Capitol Hill eradicates New Yorkers’ long-standing ability to deduct their state and local taxes, helping to take the sting out of the fact that they live in the state with the nation’s highest property tax burden. (Thanks to pushback on both sides of the aisle, it now appears Republicans are backing down from an outright repeal, though some changes are still under consideration).

What’s more, New York also stands to lose a big chunk of its federal Medicaid funding if Congress ever manages to get a deal on repeal and replacement of Obamacare, with the most recent proposal – Cassidy-Graham – calling for block granting those funds, in a move that would hurt New York more than any other state, Cuomo said.

DiNapoli declined to pick sides in the latest fight between Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio over funding for NYC Health + Hospitals, the nation’s largest municipal public hospital system and New York’s largest provider of safety-net care.

“No one has a crystal ball, but I think we’ll see some, my hope is, we’ll see some federal action on this sooner or later, so some of what’s being discussed is a dire consequence, having a special session, some of the things we’re talking about, probably, hopefully will not come to pass,” DiNapoli said when asked if the mayor should, as the governor maintains, pick up the tab for H+H funding, or, as the mayor insists, the state should pony up the $380 million it is currently withholding from the system.

The comptroller did say that he believes the Republican members of New York’s congressional delegation need to “step up to the plate and say to their leadership: this is really going to hurt us.”

“We already know there’s going to be many competitive House races in the state,” DiNapoli said. If anything like what’s being proposed goes through, I think people are going to be outraged – as well they should be.”

“…It’s very important that New York push back. What the governor is saying, what the mayor is saying, all of that is accurate, because if we don’t win some of these battles in Washington, then we’re going to be back home fighting each other over a diminished pot.”

“That’s going to be very hard for the Legislature at the state level to then have to figure out how we’re going to keep all these local governments from going over the edge in terms of providing services versus raising taxes to keep providing the services that New Yorkers expect.”

Cuomo Escalates Rhetoric In Tax Reform Battle

From the Morning Memo:

Numerous times, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called on the New York Congressional Delegation to reject a tax reform plan that eliminates the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction. Cuomo took it a step farther Wednesday during a press availability in Watertown, essentially issuing an ultimatum.

“If they go with the Washington politicians and they hurt their own people, their own citizens in their own district, I’m going to travel the state and make sure people know that their taxes are going up because of a political system in Washington,” he said.

The governor’s office has already issued statistics claiming the current proposal is equivalent to massive tax hike for New Yorkers. Republicans in Congress have largely rejected any projections claiming they’re not credible since only a framework of the legislation is currently public.

“The Republican Congress people are in a box because they want to support their political bosses but they don’t want to hurt the people in their districts,” Cuomo said.

Representatives, like Tom Reed from the Southern Tier, have also refused to take a firm stance about whether they’d support a bill that eliminates the SALT deduction. The governor said the entire delegation needs to make their intentions public.

“I want to hear them say, I will vote against the bill or I will vote against the bill unless it protects New York and eliminates the prohibition on deductibility,” Cuomo said. “They have not said that.

Reed, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, has said he’d like to see the bill get through the House by early to mid-November.

Rep. Reed Defends Tax Plan

Republican Congressman Tom Reed, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee helping to draft federal tax legislation, is rejecting early analysis the framework of the plan disproportionately helps the nation’s wealthiest population. Reed said any reports claiming that kind of impact are not credible as a significant portion of the plan has not been released.

“I think what you see here are efforts by people who are so adamantly opposed to engaging in tax reform because they love the status quo and they’re protecting the status quo that they don’t want us to be successful in regards to tax reform,” he said.

According to the independent Tax Policy Center, the biggest decrease would go to people with incomes of $730,000 or more. Some tax experts point to the proposed elimination of the Estate Tax on large inheritances and reductions in rates paid by businesses as policies tailor-made for the wealthy.

The congressman said these are not fair analyses. He pointed to reference in the unveiling of the framework that top earners could be subject to an additional tax.

“It’s going to be ironic and I look forward to the day to call out the hypocrisy of these elected officials who are going to end up defending that one percent when they’ve spent an entire career saying that’s who they’re wanting to demand play their fair share,” he said.

Although Reed said holdups could cause the legislative process to trickle into next year, he believed the bill could be on the president’s desk to sign by next year.

“I believe a very realistic time-frame is through the House in October, maybe early-November, mid-November,” he said. “Finish the work there through the regular order, going through the committee process and then to the floor of the House and then get it over to the Senate some time around mid-November would be a good estimate.”

The congressman said he’s acutely aware the effect the proposed elimination of the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction could have on homeowners in New York. He said he and others continue to argue New Yorkers pay far more to the federal government than they receive back in services – a point reinforced by a report released Tuesday from the State Comptroller’s Office.

Reed said he’s confident they can reach a compromise on that issue as the process continues.

Rep. Higgins on Vegas: ‘We Can Do Better’

Congressman Brian Higgins spoke with Buffalo media members late Monday morning about the mass shooting in Las Vegas. Higgins acknowledged it was still very early in the information gathering process as law enforcement tries to understand how and why the gunmen, Steven Paddock, chose to open fire at a concert, killing at least 58 people and injuring hundreds of others.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility but law enforcement says they’ve found no connections to an international terrorist organization, so far.

“We need to get all the information we can so as to be able to take whatever action is necessary to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” Higgins said.

While, the Democratic congressman believes every lead should be followed, he believes the long-running gun control debate at the Capitol will reignite following the latest tragedy.

“People often say that a steady hand is the best gun control,” he said. “So is a sound mind.”

Higgins said he expects information to come out that will call into question Paddock’s ability to handle a firearm. So far, no details of that kind have emerged, and, in fact, the shooter’s brother said he did not know of any mental illness, alcohol, or drug problems.

The congressman though, said mental instability has been a common thread in similar past shootings.

“We can do better to keep the American people safe from these kinds of individuals that perpetrate death and destruction upon so many people,” he said.

Higgins said people that are of unstable mind should not be able to possess a firearm with the capacity to kill large segments of people more quickly and efficiently.

Suozzi Bill Would Tighten Anti-Bribery Definition

Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi on Wednesday announced a bill that would tighten the definition of bribery and honest services fraud.

The bill, which is also backed by Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, comes after the conviction of GOP former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’s corruption conviction was overturned by a three-judge panel. Earlier this year, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon, a Democrat from Manhattan, also had his conviction tossed.

The overturned convictions were due to jury instructions incompatible with how the Supreme Court has interpreted honest services fraud, including in the case of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

“We can’t allow corruption convictions to be overturned based on legal technicalities,” Suozzi said.

“Passage of the bipartisan COAL Act would clarify Congressional intent and close the loophole opened by the Supreme Court. Those who profit on the public’s trust for personal gain must never be allowed to avoid punishment when we have the power to fix it. While the bill will not have an impact on the existing cases involving Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver, we must close this loophole to stop this from happening in the future.”

Fitzpatrick, the Republican sponsor of the bill, is a former FBI agent who handled public corruption cases.

“Corruption can and does take many different forms, and we must provide investigators and prosecutors with all the tools they need to combat the erosive effects that corruption has on our system of government,” Fitzpatrick said.

Federal prosecutors have said they will seek to retry Silver and Skelos next year, though it’s not clear which new charges the former legislative leaders would face.

Rep. Reed Said Tax Reform Is For Middle Class, Not The Rich

A day before, President Donald Trump was set to unveil the framework for the White House tax code reform plan in Indiana, he met with Democrats and Republicans from the House Ways and Means Committee to discuss the plan. Southern Tier Congressman Tom Reed said he was energized by Tuesday’s conversation.

“It is clear that we have the House, the Senate, and the White House in my opinion, all on the same page when it comes to that overriding framework that’s going to guide us through the final legislative process that will occur over the remainder of 2017,” Reed said.

Reed also believes the president wants legislation tailored to benefit the middle class, not America’s most wealthy. The congressman said critics who believe the GOP is doing the exact opposite are simply wrong.

“Anyone who believes that to be the case is not reviewing any of the proposals that we are advocating for or putting out as we speak and also because the legislative process has not been completed, I don’t know how anyone could come to that conclusion other than for political purposes or fear-mongering or editorializing,” he said.

A main component of the plan would be doubling the Standard Deduction. Reed estimated that would lead to 95 percent of taxpayers no longer itemizing their deductions, eliminating a burden and making the process easier for millions.

“What we’re looking at is obviously to modernize the code, to lower rates as much as possible across the board,” he said.

But Reed would not take a firm position on whether or not he would support the elimination of the State and Local Tax deduction, commonly known as the SALT deduction. He said there are many members of his party who would like to see it gone because they believe it disproportionately benefits states with higher property and sales tax rates, like New York.

Reed said his counter argument is that New York is a donor state where residents give more in federal taxes than they receive in services and pointed out those “real people” would be affected by the elimination.

Meanwhile, Democratic Congressman Brian Higgins, who is also a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said he took advantage of Tuesday’s meeting to speak out against the elimination.

“I welcomed the chance to advocate on behalf of Western New Yorkers who are fearful that the potential removal of essential provisions like the state and local tax deduction will affect their livelihoods,” he said in a statement. “I am hopeful that the President was able to listen to our ideas. It is never too late for this process to move in a bipartisan basis. Given the importance of the issue, it is something that the American people should expect.”

Last week, Higgins held a joint press conference with Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz calling on taxpayers to reach out to Reed and urge him to protect the deduction. Reed said he’s familiar with a PricewaterhouseCoopers report they referenced which predicted eliminating SALT would cost middle-income families that took advantage of it $815 annually, even after doubling the standard deduction.

“Those numbers are concerning to me and that’s a lot of dollars that people that are making that are going out the door that I want to make sure we’re a voice to protect as we go through this process,” he said.

Reed, who is the chairman of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, said he’s been toying with an idea he believes could be a compromise.

“Can you move it to the credit side of the ledger where folks who are paying property taxes have access to a credit that comes off dollar for dollar their overall tax liability at the end of the day. You know, a deduction is only a personal reduction of your tax liability,” he said.

The congressman said as late as Tuesday afternoon, the House, Senate and White House were finalizing the framework of the plan, but it won’t include every detail. He said every debate will get its time now that the legislative process is beginning.

Stone Brings Up Caputo In Opening Remarks To House Intelligence Committee

Former Donald Trump campaign political adviser Roger Stone, criticized members of the House Intelligence Committee for their treatment of Michael Caputo, another former campaign staffer and Western New York native, during his open remarks to the committee Tuesday morning. Caputo published those comments in full on his website PoliticsNY.net before the closed door testimony.

“My colleague, Michael Caputo, voluntarily sat in this seat a couple of months ago, gave what I believe were candid and truthful answers to those who cared to sit in on the interview; and yet, when he was done, he was accused of perjury by a member who did not even have the pretention to show up for his interview. He was eviscerated by some Committee members and consequently, the press,” he said.

Stone is referring to California Democrat Jackie Speier, who after Caputo’s July testimony told CNN it appeared the consultant “may have actually lied.” He vehemently denied the accusation and called for the committee to release the full transcripts of his meeting, which was also closed to the media.

“The most unfair aspect of this turn of events, and behavior by some Committee members, is that this Committee refuses, to this day, to release the transcripts of his testimony for the world to read and judge for themselves,” Stone said Tuesday.

Stone, in his remarks, also claimed he has repeatedly asked the committee to release his transcript and has been rejected,

“What is it you fear? Why do you oppose transparency? What is it you don’t want the public to know?” he asked. “I can assure each of you, I will not let myself be a punching bag for people with ill intentions or political motives. Understand, I will expose the truth in every forum and on every platform available to me.”

Stone flatly denied any collusion with Russia and called for an apology because Speier said he, Caputo and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort were part of a “cabal” who had business relationships with Russia. Stone said he does not and has not had any relationship with Russia or any Russian entity.

Collins Won’t Predict Cassidy-Graham Future

From the Morning Memo:

Three votes is all it would take to sink the Cassidy-Graham healthcare overhaul bill.

The eleventh-hour attempt by Republicans in the U.S. Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act once seemed like the longest of long shots, but now appears to have a chance – albeit slim – at passage, even though it has been deemed the most “radical” of all the Obamacare reform efforts the GOP has debated thus far.

Western New York Rep. Chris Collins said he would love to see the House get an opportunity to weigh in on this proposal, too, but he’s acutely aware Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell & Co. need 50 of 52 GOP senators’ support to get it through their chamber.

That’s a tall order, but so far not completely out of the question. Still, the congressman isn’t holding his breath.

“I know they’re vote counting, so I’m just going to just watch like everyone else,” Collins said. “I don’t want to be a Debby Downer and say it’s not going to pass, but I’m not overly optimistic.”

Neither would Collins make a prediction about whether Congress would restore scheduled funding cuts to Disproportionate Share Hospital (also known as “DSH” – pronounced “dish”) payments. Lawmakers need to take action before Oct. 1 to protect the funding stream, which reimburses public and safety net hospitals that treat uninsured and underinsured patients.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said New York stands to lose billions of dollars if the DSH payments get cut.

New York also would lose a massive amount of Medicaid and Medicare funding – second only to California in the nation – if the block grant plan outlined under Cassidy-Graham passes.

That has led some of Collins’ fellow GOP delegation members – including Long Island Rep. Pete King, New York’s most veteran House Republican – to already go on the record saying they’ll likely vote “no” if given a chance.

Collins said he and his colleagues tried to address the DSH problem before the recess that followed the failure of the last GOP healthcare plan. But he also said hospitals are sending mixed signals by both lobbying against that bill and asking for help.

“There’s a bit of an irony here, a little bit of hypocrisy here, and I can’t predict where it’s going to go right now,” he said. “They’re asking us to help shore up a piece of Obamacare that we had fixed in the American Health Care Act that they lobbied against.”