Congress

New York’s Loss Of Clout In The House

Tenure does not matter in Congress like it once did in the days of, say, Lyndon Johnson.

But putting time in the House of Representatives still matters, and New York is losing three long-tenured lawmakers at the end of the current term: Reps. Nita Lowey, Jose Serrano and, most recently, Peter King.

Put their political affiliations aside for a moment. All three lawmakers have the kind of influence and clout that comes in Washington only by putting in the decades of service.

With Democrats in power, Lowey and Serrano have been handed powerful roles. When Republicans rule the roost, King is seen as a key lawmaker for New York.

Congress is not as tenure-bound as it once was, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to loosen the informal rules surrounding the practice. Media exposure and savvy in this day and age, which tend to gravitate toward younger, newer lawmakers, also is a new form of clout.

But tenure still counts for something, and New York is losing nearly a century of it by the end of 2020.

Meanwhile, New York is likely to lose at least one seat after the upcoming Census as the state’s population has not grown as fast as the rest of the country.

Limousine Safety Bills Formally Introduced

A package of limousine safety legislation was formally introduced on Wednesday with the measures earning the support of Republicans and Democrats alike.

The three-bill package was proposed a year after a stretch limousine crash in Schoharie killed 20 people.

The measures include new seat belt standards, retrofitting assessment for existing limousines, safety standards for altering use vehicles and federal compliance requirements for safety standards.

“Our limo safety plan reflects more than a year of painful work built on the guidance of experts, crash investigators, and most importantly the grieving families who suffered an unspeakable loss in the Schoharie limo tragedy,” said Rep. Paul Tonko, a Democrat who represents the Albany area.

“The first night our communities came together in vigil, these families called on us to respond not just with our thoughts and prayers, but with clear, enforceable standards that close dangerous loopholes and make rider safety a priority. This legislation answers that call. Once advanced through Congress and signed into law, this set of bills will work together to save lives and ensure this kind of devastating, preventable tragedy can never happen again.”

In addition to Tonko, the legislation has the backing of Reps. Antonio Delgado and Elise Stefanik as well as Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

On the state level, lawmakers next year are also considering limousine safety measures after approving some in the state budget, including new insurance requirements.

Reed Describes ‘Crisis’ He Witnesses At The Border

From the Morning Memo:

During a trip to the Southern Border last week, Rep. Tom Reed, R-NY-23, said he saw firsthand a scenario which drove home the immigration crisis for him.

Reed said a man was attempting to go through customs with a six-month-old child, but something seemed off. When border agents threatened a rapid DNA test and kidnapping charges, the man admitted to “renting” the child from a smuggler because he was told it was the best way to get across.

The story was one of several he relayed during a conference call with reporters.

“I can not live in a Utopic, idealistic world that does not recognize there are threats that are there at the border. I’ve seen the drugs. I’ve seen the weapons. I’ve seen the use of human beings in the most despicable way,” Reed said.

The congressman went on the trip with the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus of which he chairs. He said he was not surprised by what they saw but it was heart wrenching to see it in person.

“This is a crisis,” Reed said. “It is something that is real and what the border agents are doing at the border, to me is humane. It is done out of caring heart and it is doing the best with the crisis level influx of people coming through the border that they have to recognize and deal with and process.”

He said he saw a “tremendous amount of evil” functioning at borders, namely the Cartel which he said essentially controls the Mexican side. Reed said he saw in real time, Cartel intelligence officers reporting back and directing thousands of people to go other areas of the border in order to weaken ports of entry.

“The border guards should not be blamed for this situation. This is not their fault at the border. What I fundamentally see here is the blame is in Congress. Congress needs to step up and lead on this issue and set aside the partisan rhetoric,” he said.

The Republican promised to be cognizant of toning down his own rhetoric but also said he would call out “spineless political leaders,” who are putting politics over real solutions. He said Congress needs to find a way to create an easier path to citizenship but it also needs to provide more resources to border patrol who are overtaxed and regularly dealing with dangerous situations.

Bellavia On Congress: ‘It’s The Last Thing In My Thought Process’

From the Morning Memo:

Medal of Honor recipient David Bellavia returned to his hometown of Batavia to receive a key to the city Tuesday and took questions about whether he is planning on running for New York’s 27th Congressional seat.

Of course, his answer did not really provide any more clarity on the issue.

“Nothing is going to sway me to run or not run. I am 100 percent focused. I don’t know when that obligation is going to end. It’s the last thing in my thought process right now if anything. As a matter of fact, I take great pride in what we’re doing right now across the country which is putting men and women in the military.”

Bellavia’s non-answer does not really come as a surprise. After winning the military’s highest honor, he officially re-entered active duty.

Under the Hatch Act, an active military member is not allowed to campaign for office or enter the politics arena in any capacity. Currently, friends and supporters who have hatched a Draft Bellavia campaign are essentially doing it for him.

However, the Iraq war veteran didn’t sound much like someone seeking office.

“The last thing I’m thinking about right now is cashing this in,” he said. “And this feels like it would be cashing it in.”

Bellavia also pointed out, he’s run for this seat and lost before, a Republican primary in 2012. He said the only thing that’s changed about him as a candidate since then is the award.

Republican Chris Collins currently holds the seat but has not announced if he will seek re-election. Only current state Senator Chris Jacobs has officially announced his candidacy with others exploring a run.

McMurray Starts Fundraising For 2020

From the Morning Memo;

The battle for NY-27 in Western New York was one of the closest congressional contests in the country in 2018.

Less than half a percentage point separated incumbent Republican Rep. Chris Collins, who was (and still is) facing federal insider trading charges, and his Democratic challenger Nate McMurray. Almost immediately after the results became final, local and national pundits began speculating about a 2020 rematch.

McMurray has not officially announced his candidacy for next year, outside of promising that if Collins runs again – not nearly a certainty – that he will, too. However, the Democrat definitely is making all the right moves that someone planning to run again would make.

Thursday afternoon, for example, he posted a video to Twitter, urging supporter to sign up to volunteer for, and to donate to, his yet-unofficial campaign.

“To keep Washington focused on this race, we need to start fundraising now,” McMurray said. “That money will be used to pay for competent staff that’s so hard to find and gets away early, and also to pay for the advertising and the outreach that we need to cover this giant district.”

In 2018, McMurray struggled to get institutional support from national Democrats and to raise money early on. That situation changed when Collins was indicted, but McMurray has lamented at times that the assistance came too late in the game to make a significant impact on his race.

That doesn’t appear to be the case this time around. In his video, McMurray notes he has already met with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently, and it has named NY-27 one of its priorities races.

“They asked me to start now, building that volunteer base again that was so powerful before and to start the fundraising process,” he said.

Collins is not scheduled to go to trial until February 2020, which is before the general election, but well into the campaign season. McMurray said nobody knows what is going to happen with that litigation, which is part of the reason he is preparing now.

 

New York House Delegation Reacts To Mueller Report

The reactions on Thursday by the members of New York’s congressional delegation broke down on largely partisan lines as the report on Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election was released with redactions by the Department of Justice.

The report did not find evidence to conclude that President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government to sway the outcome of the election, but did not make a determination on whether Trump himself sought to obstruct the investigation.

“Today the Mueller report was released, but the result remains the same — no Russian collusion,” said Republican Rep. Tom Reed. “This should be celebrated. Now it is time for our country to heal because all politics all the time is tearing our country apart and hurting real people. We must end this culture of division and work together on policies to help people.”

Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko praised the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, pointing to the 30 indictments as the result of the investigation.

“This is the first time Special Counsel Mueller’s report has been made available to the public and members of Congress,” Tonko said. “At several hundred pages, it is far more detailed and rigorous than the four page reaction memo issued by Attorney General Barr. I will take the time necessary to review the report in detail and will share my views on its contents once I have had a chance to do so.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican from the North Country, said the focus should continue to be placed on efforts by a hostile power to sway an election.

“AG Barr was clear that the process was completed with a high degree of transparency, no executive privilege, limited redactions, and resulted in a report of no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign,” she said. “I am proud of my record of calling for full transparency, and will continue to focus on what matters: interference in our elections by Russia and other foreign adversaries.”

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, meanwhile, has been authorized by his committee to subpoena for an unredacted version of the report. And he found concerns raised in the report about the president’s attempts to shut down the investigation.

“The report concluded there was ‘substantial evidence’ that President Trump attempted to prevent an investigation into his campaign and his own conduct,” Nadler said. “Contrary to the Attorney General’s statement this morning that the White House ‘fully cooperated’ with the investigation, the report makes clear that the President refused to be interviewed by the Special Counsel and refused to provide written answers to follow-up questions; and his associates destroyed evidence relevant to the Russia investigation.”

Rep. Collins Still Debating 2020 Reelection Bid

Western New York Republican Chris Collins, facing federal insider trading charges, very narrowly won his congressional reelection bid, last fall.
When all the votes were tallied, Collins ended up beating his Democratic challenger, Nate McMurray, by less than half a percentage point in the mid-term race. McMurray has continued to be active on social media and in the community and has maintained the appearance of someone who plans on challenging the congressman again.

He half-confirmed his intentions Friday on Twitter, tweeting that if Collins runs again, he will too.

The Republican incumbent has not confirmed he will run for what would be his 5th term. Friday, he made it sound like the decision is still very much up in the air.

“I’m debating that,” he said. “We’ll debate within my family and you know, I’ve been there eight years and so that will be a decision for early next year, one that I’m not locked in on right now.”

Collins does not believe the close result in 2018 would be a reason not to run. In fact, he pointed out he received more votes than any other Republican candidate in New York and more than some members of House GOP leadership.

He said he would expect the total to be even higher for a presidential election year in a district in which President Donald Trump remains popular.

“140,000 people, probably in the nastiest election that there’s ever been, said they wanted me to come back as their member, so I would say that I’m in a pretty good spot,” he said. “Clearly, anyone that voted for me last time’s gonna do it again.”

Collins said if he runs, McMurray would be his “dream candidate to run against.” He said the Democrat is a far-left candidate who has moved even further left since last year.

The congressman noted the status of his ongoing federal litigation will weigh into his ultimate decision.

Serrano To Retire After Parkinson’s Diagnosis

Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano announced Monday he would not seek another two-year term in the House of Representatives following a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.

Serrano, a Bronx Democrat, has served in the House since 1990.

“Although this disease has not affected my work in Congress, over the last few months I’ve come to the realization that Parkinson’s will eventually take a toll, and that I cannot predict its rate of advancement,” Serrano said in a statement.

He plans to serve out the remainder of his term.

The Bronx district is a heavily Democratic one. Serrano was facing a primary challenge from Councilman Ritchie Torres. With the retirement, the district will likely become an even more competitive primary this election cycle.

NRCC Targets 4 NY Dems Over Impeachment Split

The race for 2020 is already well underway, and not only when it comes to the White House. The political machines on both sides of the congressional aisle are already ramping up and taking aim at their respective targets in the next election cycle.

The NRCC today announced a series of digital ads running in 55 target districts across the nation that highlight the division in the Democratic Party over the question of whether to pursue an effort to impeach President Donald Trump.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said this week in an interview with the Washington Post Magazine that she is not in favor of impeachment because it’s too divisive, and, in her opinion, the president is “not worth it.”

This put the speaker at odds with more activist/progressive members of her conference, though the man in charge of the chamber’s Judiciary Committee, New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, has also said he doesn’t want to make any moves in the impeachment direction unless there’s substantial Republican support to do so.

The NRCC has seized on this issue, pressuring marginal members to pick a side, or, as the committee’s chairman, Tom Emmer, put it in a press release:

“The socialist Democrats in Congress need to definitively state if they will stand up to the baseless attempts to impeach our president or if they will once again roll over for the extremists running their caucus.”

In New York, the ads, which will be running through the recess week while members are home in their districts, are directed at four members, three of whom are freshmen: Reps. Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), Antonio Delgado (NY-19), Max Rose (NY-11) and Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18).

Here’s the Delgado ad, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, the script doesn’t differ.

Caputo Attorney Says He Doesn’t Have Documents House Judiciary Requested

Former Donald Trump campaign staffer Michael Caputo will not send documents to the House Judiciary Committee in response to a request earlier this week.

In a letter to the committee’s chairman Jerry Nadler, D-NY-10, Attorney Dennis Vacco said his client, Caputo, is not in possession of any of the documentation. Specifically, he said they do not have any documents connected to a June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump tower between campaign members and a Russian lawyer who said she had damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“Notably, on June 9, 2016 Mr. Caputo was approximately 500 miles away in Cleveland, Ohio because he had been assigned by the Trump Campaign to direct communications at the 2016 Republican National Convention,” Vacco wrote.

He also responded to two other requests. Vacco said Caputo did not have any documents connected to contact between the Russian Federation and Trump or various members of the campaign or administration between January 1, 2015 and January 20, 2017. 

He also said there was no documentation of between Paul Manafort, Caputo’s boss on the campaign, or Rick Gates and several Russian nationals from January 1, 2016 to the present. Of the Russians named, Vacco said Caputo did have contact with political consultant Konstantin Kilimnik while working for the U.S. Government in Russia in the 1990s during the Clinton Administration. However, he said the two had not communicated since, including during the campaign.

Finally, Vacco said he was asked during a follow up call with the committee if Caputo would be willing to testify before the committee. He did not commit because his client has already testified under oath previously before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and did an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team.

“Respectfully, there are only so many ways the same question can be asked of Mr. Caputo,” he wrote.

Vacco said they have already called for Caputo’s previous testimony to be released publicly and he sees no reason why the Judiciary committee can not obtain it. The letter did not address the request for all previous documentation his client has provided to various investigations.