Brian Higgins

Rep. Higgins Believes ‘Reckoning’ Coming For Buffalo Catholic Diocese

Rep. Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, believes a “reckoning” is coming for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

The one-year look back for victims of childhood sexual abuse under the Child Victims Act opens Wednesday in New York. The diocese will likely be the target of hundreds, if not thousands, of lawsuits.

“(Victims) are entitled to pursue in civil action what it is they’re entitled to in terms of the pain and suffering and the expense that they’ve had to incur to deal with the emotional wreckage that comes with child abuse,” Higgins said.

There has been speculation the Buffalo Diocese could file bankruptcy in order to limit the potential financial impact of lawsuits. The congressman said he doesn’t know if that will come to fruition but he warned the church against the strategy.

“The fact of the matter is that would trigger a review of where the diocesan resources have been shifted to and why they were shifted there,” he said.

Higgins said the best course of action for the diocese is to do right by all the victims who have been wronged. He said “everybody’s suffering” but the church needs to be held accountable for its “lack of oversight and for hiding information” about priests and other trusted members of parishes who took advantage of those positions.

Rep. Higgins: Too Soon For A Presidential Endorsement

From the Morning Memo:

There are a lot of Democratic presidential candidates right now.

Generally speaking, those candidates have not been endorsed by a lot of people and/or organizations so far. There’s a reason for that: It’s early.

“The election’s a year off,” Buffalo Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins said. “There have not been any primaries held as of yet. There have been no debates, and I think this is obviously going to be a very important election, which is held next year, not this year.”

The congressman scoffed at the idea of officially throwing his support behind anybody during the current calendar year. He pointed out there are still candidates getting into the race, and if he were to make an endorsement at all, next year would be the appropriate time to do so.

That applies even to the hometown contender, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, his colleague in Washington, D.C., whom so far has little support for her bid among members of the state congressional delegation – a few of whom have announced support of other candidates.

“I have a very good relationship with Senator Gillibrand, work closely with her,” Higgins said. “She is a great United States senator, and she is a viable presidential candidate.”

Some publications have already opined about her seeming lack of support so far in her home state. So far, Gillibrand has been endorsed by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Manhattan Democrat.

Despite the fact that party leaders typically shape consensus for the nomination, Higgins said he believes too much is often made of personal endorsements.

Higgins Blames Tax And Trade Policies For WNY Layoffs

From the Morning Memo:

A factory in Cheektowaga plans to close this year, taking roughly 300 jobs with it, and Democratic Buffalo Rep. Brian Higgins believes federal tax and trade policies are to blame.

A spokesperson for Ingersoll Rand said the Western Nw York plant will stop the production line by July. The company has made air compressors at the facility it purchased in 2015. The work done in Cheektowaga will be consolidated to two other factories – one in North Carolina and the other in Italy.

Higgins, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee that oversees taxes and tariffs, said Ingersoll Rand represents the latest in a growing list of WNY manufacturing jobs recently lost.

“We are experiencing firsthand the failed promises of the GOP tax bill,” he said. “From Dresser Rand in Olean to BAK USA in Buffalo and from New Era in Derby to Globe Specialty Metals in Niagara Falls, the corporate tax cuts are not trickling down to hardworking Western New Yorkers and the tariffs are not protecting American jobs. Instead, haphazard policy that favors big business is incentivizing outsourcing and putting people out of work.”

The company does plan to retain and continue to invest in a technology center at the Cheektowaga Plant, as well as a customer center and two Trane facilities, keeping 150 other employees. Trane is one of its brands.

Ingersoll Rand said it plans to support employees losing their jobs with competitive severance packages, on-site employee assistance programs, job placement services, and the opportunity to apply for jobs at other company locations.

Meanwhile, state Legislators Monica Wallace and Tim Kennedy said they are sending a letter to the company imploring them to work with the state to find a way to keep the facility open.

Collins Calls Higgins A Liar

Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27, has not been shy about talking about the double standard he believes the media has when reporting on him versus his Democratic colleagues, specifically fellow Congressman Brian Higgins.

Collins has argued Higgins didn not get the same criticism as him for not debating his opponent this past election. That’s perhaps a false equivalency considering Higgins race was not as competitive as Collins’ nor was his opponent as aggressive in calling for a debate.

But the Republican is now pointing to another instance where he believes his neighboring congressman got a pass. Last month, Higgins said he would support Nancy Pelosi for House Speaker, backtracking on his previous public position.
“I’d put it differently,” Collins said. “I would just say liar, liar, pants on fire and that’s how you should report it.”

Higgins said he was being pragmatic, with no viable option to replace the longtime Democratic leader. In exchange for his vote, he said Pelosi promised to bring two legislative priorities, an infrastructure bill and a Medicare buy-in plan, to the floor.

Collins called the so-called bargaining chip a “joke” because neither then Senate nor the president will support either plan.

“To say he’s now going to get a bill on the House floor that has zero chance of being passed mean he will have accomplished nothing other than he lied from Day One,” he said.

The congressman contrasted Higgins about-face, with downstate Democrat Kathleen Rice who maintained her opposition to Pelosi even as it became clear she had the requisite votes.

Higgins Reiterates He Won’t Support Pelosi For Speaker

Buffalo Democratic Congressman Brian Higgins has been relatively vocal this year about his lack of support for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The Democrats will take the majority for the first time in nearly a decade in January. Higgins said his opinion has not changed.

“It’s a preference that I have to see real reform in the House of Representatives,” he said. “I will not be voting for her but I want to see changes in the way this place operates.”

Higgins said both Democratic and Republican leaders have consolidated power while taking influence away from individual members and committees. He said the election of a new speaker is a chance to seize some of that power back.

“(There’s) a lot of buzz about Karen Bass out of California but I think there are plenty of candidates that should emerge as a potential speaker candidates that could put the votes together, given their geography, given the caucuses that their involved in. I just think we need a change,” Higgins said. “We’ve had the same leadership for 16 years and too much power has been consolidated under the leader and not enough power has been exercised by the individual members who were sent to Washington to represent 725,000 people.”

The congressman said, because whoever is elected needs a full majority, it gives lots of different caucuses leverage points. He said each of them will likely have their own priorities.


Higgins and Paladino Plan On Attending Bohen Fundraiser

From the Morning Memo:

Two influential South Buffalo politicians plan to attend a fundraiser for Assemblyman Erik Bohen this evening, but they’ll probably do their best to avoid each other while they’re there.

Carl Paladino, conservative Buffalo businessman, former School Board member and onetime gubernatorial contender; and Democrat Rep. Brian Higgins are both scheduled to show up for the $30 event at The Place bar and restaurant in Buffalo.

The former Republican gubernatorial candidate and the current Democratic congressman are actually in-laws, but they’ve engaged in a public feud for years, with Paladino even paying for an anti-Higgins billboard at one point.

Both come from similar backgrounds in the very parochial South Buffalo neighborhood, not unlike Bohen.

“I have known both individuals my whole life,” the assemblyman said.

Bohen, who assumed office after winning a special election in the spring, has made a habit of blurring party lines. He is a registered Democrat, who, for the second time in a year, will run on the Republican line – a practice that isn’t uncommon in his part of the state, but hasn’t won him many friends among fellow Democrats in Albany.

Democratic Erie County Legislator Pat Burke has had the party’s endorsement in both elections. While, Paladino has consistently and openly supported Bohen, having a major member of his own party, like Higgins, in his corner could be a big boon for the freshman state lawmaker.

However, the congressman’s office made clear his attendance does not mean he’s making a formal endorsement in the race.

“Erik Bohen is a longtime friend and supporter of Brian’s, and Brian is simply planning to stop by a private gathering of mutual friends and supporters,” the Higgins spokesperson said.

As for whether the fact Higgins and Paladino plan to be in the same room together indicates they could be burying the hatchet, Paladino simply said: “No.”

NY Democrats Criticize Trump For Shutdown Threat

Some Democratic federal leaders from New York were not impressed with President Donald Trump’s threat this weekended of a government shutdown if Congress doesn’t fund a Mexican border wall.

Trump tweeted Sunday, he would be willing to shut down the government if Dems don’t vote for “Border Security,” including a wall. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, called it outrageous and said the president should be focusing on reuniting roughly 700 immigrant children with their parents instead.

“I think his plan is a waste of money and I think that he should be focusing on how he’s going to reunite these children with their parents that is a crisis that he created through an inhumane process.”

When pressed about whether Democrats would ever vote for the funding, the senator took a beat before reiterating her opposition to the idea. She did not explicitly say no.

“It’s not the right use of our taxpayer dollars,” she said. “If you want to protect our country from terrorism from human traffickers and drug traffickers, that is now how you’re going to effectively do it.”

Western New York Congressman Brian Higgins, meanwhile, has even harsher words for Trump. He said the president is making idle threats about things he does not even have the authority to do.

He pointed out while the president has the authority to veto the budget if he disagrees with it, Congress can override the veto. Higgins said Trump lacks a fundamental understanding or appreciation for the separation of powers.

“He’s acting like a child, which is insulting to children, because I think by and large young people are brought up with a better sense of right and wrong,” the congressman said. “This is not about left and right. It’s about right and wrong.”

While the administration is celebrating more than four percent growth of the Gross Domestic Product, Higgins said Trump’s words could potentially create uncertainty and instability, which in turn could have a negative affect on further economic growth.

Rep. Higgins: ‘I Can’t Afford To Maintain Two Homes’

Members of Congress across the country, including one from Western New York, could be facing a tough predicament soon if proposed legislation moves forward banning them from sleeping in their D.C. offices.

“A homeless shelter may work for me. That would probably work, yeah,” Rep. Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, said in response to a suggestion from a reporter.

The congressman was joking, of course, but when it comes to his actual plans should the ban become reality, he doesn’t sound sure about what he will do. Higgins said he’s one of “probably close to 100 members” who stays put when their day at the Capitol is over.

“If members want to make an issue, they can make an issue of it. The cost of housing in Washington is very expensive. I can’t afford it. I maintain a home here in Buffalo. I can’t afford to maintain two homes,” he said.

The base salary for House representatives is $174,000 per year but the cost of living is high. The average rent for a studio apartment in Washington is more than $1600 per month.

Higgins, a former state Assembly member, pointed out New York state legislators receive a per diem to help cover the cost of their housing in Albany. The federal government does not extend the same financial help to members of Congress.

His colleagues who are leading the push for the ban say sleeping over is unsanitary, undignified and unethical. While some members bring cots, Higgins said his set up is modest, just a couch.

“They’re long days in Washington and I find it very convenient and it works for me. It’s part of my work environment and I don’t see anything wrong with it,” he said.

However, the Democrat said if the House does decide to prohibit the practice, he’s fine with it and he’ll find an alternative. Higgins said it’s probably a good thing the issue has come to light.

Higgins: Don’t Touch FAA Safety Standards

From the Morning Memo:

The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote today on whether to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration at more than $100 billion per year for the next five years.

As Congress debated amendments Thursday, Western New York Democrat Brian Higgins urged his colleagues not to roll back safety standards passed in response to the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in Clarence Center.
Higgins speech was short but pointed.

“In 2010, Congress approved landmark flight safety legislation after the flight of 3407 crashed outside of Buffalo, New York in 2009. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that pilot error was the cause of that tragedy,” he said. “The bill the House will vote on tomorrow must uphold and reaffirm our commitment to those safety standards.”

Higgins said thanks to the persistence of the families of the victims of 3407, there is more transparency for passengers and stricter requirements when it comes to rest time and training for pilots. Because of those standards, he said flying is safer.

“The Southwest Airlines emergency landing two weeks ago is an urgent and inspiring reminder of the importance of pilot training to keep the flying public safe,” he said. “The Southwest pilot Tammie Joe Shults piloted that plane to a safe landing in a calm, controlled and confident manner borne out of one thing – excellent pilot training.”

Although one person died on the Southwest flight Higgins referenced, when an engine exploded and busted a window in mid-air, Shuts is credited with potentially saving other lives by calmly making an emergency landing.

Higgins Calls For Congressional Gun Control Hearings ASAP

From the Morning Memo:

The March for our Lives and corresponding protests across the country this weekend garnered a lot of attention. Count Rep. Brian Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat, among those who was impressed by the showing.

“I think we’ve reached a tipping point; I really do,” he said. “These young voices, they need to be heard.”

The Buffalo Democrat said it is Congress’ responsibility to react to the movement and take action, though he’s not yet certain what that action should be.

Higgins called on his colleagues to immediately undertake hearings and gather testimony from experts who deal with gun violence regularly.

“Everybody has an opinion about this,” he said. “This is not my area of expertise. I’ll be truthful with you and I don’t know that there are a lot of members of Congress that have that level of expertise. There are certainly people out there.”

Higgins said he particularly wants to hear from members of law enforcement, because they deal with gun violence regularly, and lawmakers have yet to have police agencies talk about the approach they feel would best solve the current issues.

“I think this requires the input of police,” the congressman said. “Our police are outgunned. Most policing agencies, they’re more conservative in their approach but they agree that assault rifles, assault weapons should be banned by and large because they’re on the streets dealing with this.”

Higgins said he is not looking to villainize anybody, particularly legitimate, responsible gun owners. But he also feels there needs to be a common sense recognition that some people shouldn’t have guns. He also believes how Congress chooses to react or not react at this potentially crucial moment in history will have a profound influence on the mid-term elections.