Congress

Reed’s ‘Problem Solvers’ Applaud Senate Prison Reform Passage

From the Morning Memo:

The U.S. House of Representatives has yet to pass the legislation yet, but Republican Rep. Tom Reed and the Problem Solvers Caucus he co-chairs, reiterated their support for the FIRST Step Act.

The Senate passed the criminal justice reform bill overwhelmingly on Tuesday. Among other things, the bill expands job training and early release programs, and modifies sentencing laws.

The House has vowed to pass the bill this week. It is being touted as a bipartisan victory.

The bipartisan Problem Solvers point out they have championed the legislation for months.

“The Problem Solvers Caucus was proud to put our full weight behind the FIRST Step Act more than six months ago. This bill betters our communities, improves the lives of thousands and saves taxpayers money. Congress must continue to craft and pass more bipartisan legislation like the FIRST Step Act,” Reed and his co-chair Josh Gottheimer, D-NJ-5, wrote in a joint statement.

The president has also signaled he will sign the legislation, a sentiment he reiterated Tuesday night on Twitter.

“This will keep our communities safer, and provide hope and a second chance, to those who earn it. In addition to everything else, billions of dollars will be saved. I look forward to signing this into law!” he wrote.

WNY Members Of Congress Applaud New Farm Bill

From the Morning Memo:

Both Democrats and Republicans from Western New York applauded Congress’ passage – after a long delay – of the Farm Bill.

The $867 billion dollar package received overwhelming support with a 386-47 vote. It passed the Senate earlier this week, and the president is expected to sign it into law soon.

Newly-minted Democratic Rep. Joe Morelle, elected in a special election last month to fill the vacancy left by the death of Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter, of Rochester, was among those who supported the bill.

“I am proud to cast my vote in favor of this bipartisan legislation which effectively and comprehensively addresses the needs of farmers, strengthens our rural communities, and ensures vulnerable families have access to critical SNAP benefits programs,” he said. “In addition, it takes important steps to support the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of our agriculture economy in the global marketplace.”

Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican who was re-elected to represent NY-27 in a narrow victory that came despite the federal charges he faces of insider trading and lying to the FBI, has said passing a Farm Bill was one of his main priorities after winning that close race. Congress had failed to pass it in September before the previous package expired.

Specifically, Collins said, the new legislation included important dairy policy that will strengthen the economy for WNY’s struggling farmers.

“The agriculture industry is the backbone of New York’s 27th district,” Collins said. “Protecting Western New York farmers will always be a priority of mine, and I’m committed to doing what is best to help them succeed. While we still have a lot of work to do to turn this industry around, H.R. 2 is a huge step in the right direction, and I’m pleased to see it pass today.”

Southern Tier Republican Rep. Tom Reed, who easily won re-election last month, also expressed the importance of the dairy policy for his district.

“This farm bill not only supports our hardworking farmers we care about, but also ensures our families are given a fair hand up when they fall upon hard times,” he said. “And as always, we are proud to continue our efforts to ensure increased funding and standards for rural broadband access.”

Reed said other important components included the legalization of production of hemp, funding for organic farmers and specialty crop research, and improvements to the crops insurance program.

Responding to Schoharie Limo Crash, Bill Tightens Safety Regulations

New legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would change the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s requirements for retrofitted limousines.

Current law allows more lenient safety requirements for re-sold vehicles when compared to vehicles sold as new. Requirements for seat belts or exit areas are different, especially as some limousines purchased second hand may become altered or expanded to combat capacity limitations.

The bill is a direct response to October’s fatal limousine crash in Schoharie County along Route 30A that claimed 20 lives.

It has been recorded as the U.S.’s most deadly transportation accident within the past nine years.

The passengers were traveling in a rented, modified 2001 Ford Excursion. It had failed inspection barely a month prior.

By Republican Reps. John Faso and Elise Stefanik and Democratic Rep. John Faso introduced the legislation.

“NHTSA regulations are in place for a reason,” Faso said.

“Each time a new vehicle is sold, it must undergo a thorough safety examination. However, if the vehicle is substantively modified to add more seating, it is not subject to the same safety checks. It’s vital that vehicles which are significantly modified undergo a strict amount of scrutiny. The recent tragedy in Schoharie County which took the lives of 20 people must move the Congress to close this loophole and enact stricter rules on modified vehicles. While there were certainly other factors surrounding this crash which are the subject to federal and state investigation, as well as a criminal prosecution, making sure modified vehicles are safer is a critical step.”

Nauman Hussein, operator and son of Prestige Limousine owner Shahed Hussain, faces criminally negligent homicide charges and will be prosecuted by the Schoharie County DA.

A lawsuit has been filed against Prestige Limousine’s owners by the family of victim Amanda Rivenburg.

Today, the lawyer representing Rivenburg’s family announced the family intends to file a lawsuit against the State of New York on grounds of negligence.

The incident remains under investigation by both state and federal authorities.

NY Farm Bureau Awaits Farm Bill Passage

From the Morning Memo:

Congress could make a decision on the Farm Bill before the new year.

The 2014 Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30 amid congressional gridlock, but an temporary extender has held the legislation in place. This came much to the dismay of struggling farmers nationwide, from all sectors of agriculture, ranging from cattle to dairy to soybean production.

Disagreement around SNAP specifics, or the food stamp program, largely concerned differences in Republican and Democrat determinations on work requirements–not to mention, SNAP accounts for the most expensive portion of the bill. Decisions on crop insurance, subsidy eligibility and forest management similarly need smoothing out.

In a statement on Thursday, New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher:

“New York Farm Bureau is pleased that Congressional leaders have reached a consensus on the 2018 Farm Bill ahead of the current Farm Bill’s lapse at the end of this year. While we have yet to see specific details, we are hopeful that final passage of the legislation will give farmers some reassurance moving forward that critical risk management tools will be in place as they plan the best they can for next year.

“Improvements to the dairy safety net, the continuation of important conservation programs as well as support and research programs for New York’s specialty crop producers are much needed in this tough farm economy. The Farm Bill is an investment in our food system. It helps farm families weather some unpredictable conditions and provides consumers the reassurance that we will continue to have a strong, affordable food supply in this country. We encourage our Senators and Representatives to support the compromise legislation.”

New York farmers have been particularly concerned with tariff impositions, especially in light of the state’s close proximity to, and trade relationship with Canada.

Reed’s Problem Solvers Caucus Strikes Deal With Pelosi

From the Morning Memo:

As Rep. Nancy Pelosi continues her efforts to solidify her bid to be the next Speaker of the House, another Upstate New York member of Congress is reaping the benefits.

Rep. Tom Reed, R-NY-23, announced Pelosi struck a deal with the Problem Solvers Caucus, agreeing to change several rules he said should help break gridlock. Reed co-chairs the bipartisan caucus.

It was, in fact the Democrats in the group, whose votes for Speaker, Pelosi was seeking. The nine members were threatening not to vote for her if she didn’t support reforms.

Reed said everybody benefits though.

“These rule changes represent a hopeful and substantial breakthrough to empower the people we represent, enable rank-and-file Members to truly govern and make it easier for bipartisan bills to pass,” he said. 

Among the changes, it will now be harder to keep legislation with 290 or more sponsors stalled in committee. If a bill meets the requirements to go on a “Consensus Calendar” leadership will be required to bring at least one of those stalled bills per week to the floor for a vote, during the final months of session.

Another change gives preference to amendments with at least 20 sponsors from each party. 

Also, a process allowing members to bring legislation to the floor with 218 signatures would be opened up even further. They would be allowed to be considered under a 3-day notice process rather than only on certain Mondays, as it exists now.

“We look forward to continuing to work across the aisle to find common ground in order to get things done for the American people,” Reed said.

The congressman is the second representative from the region to take advantage of Pelosi’s push for the leadership position. Last week, Democrat Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, decided to support her after she promised to bring two priority bills, one regarding health care and major infrastructure legislation, to the floor.

Morelle Supports Pelosi For Speaker

From the Morning Memo:

On the same day Nancy Pelosi held a closed door meeting with incoming freshman Democrats to solidify support for her Speaker of the House, a new member from Upstate New York announced he would vote for the party’s longtime leader.

Rep. Joe Morelle, D-NY-25, said it is more important than ever the new majority have a leader with experience to make the party’s “shared priorities a reality.”

“Like me, Leader Pelosi knows that we must work to lower healthcare costs, create more economic opportunities for working families, enact common-sense solutions to prevent the devastating gun violence that plagues our nation, and take action to protect our environment for future generations. With Leader Pelosi at the helm, we will take important steps towards achieving meaningful reforms and putting government back in the hands of the people,” he said.

As recently as last week, Morelle said he had not made a decision yet. He said he has consistently said he would support the person best for his district in the country.

Morelle won a special election in November to replace the late Louise Slaughter and has already been sworn in. Both he and Pelosi spoke at Slaughter’s funeral earlier this year.

Rep. Higgins Will Support Pelosi For Speaker After All

Western New York Democrat Brian Higgins changed course Wednesday, indicating he will support California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House next year.

Higgins has consistently endorsed a change in leadership since this summer, telling the Buffalo News in June Pelosi was “aloof, frenetic and misguided.” As recently as last week the congressman reiterated he would not support the current Democratic leader’s bid.

He said too much power has been consolidated under both his and the Republican party’s leadership for too long and was looking for a change. In a press release, he explained his change of heart.

Higgins said he had identified another representative from California, Karen Bass, as the right person to bring the caucus together. However, late last week Bass indicated to him she would not seek the position.

“At the urging of several friends and colleagues – in particular incoming Ways & Means Chairman Richard Neal – I spoke with Leader Pelosi. After several productive discussions, I am confident that Nancy and the entire leadership team will work with me on making Medicare an option for Americans at age 50, helping to lower health care costs for the 25 million Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 who have pre-existing conditions and are struggling to manage health care costs. I am also pleased that Nancy remains committed to bringing a $1.5 trillion comprehensive infrastructure bill to the floor next year that will provide millions of good paying jobs to hardworking Americans. And Nancy reiterated a commitment to finally, after 20 years of increases, push changes that would reverse the trend of skyrocketing prescription drug prices by harnessing the purchasing power of the federal government in Medicare and Medicaid to help consumers manage costs,” he said.

Higgins said he took a “principled stand” earlier in the year, but oftentimes a principled stand “requires a pragmatic outlook in order to meet with success.” With Democrats taking a relatively slim majority, his reversal potentially could be a deciding vote toward Pelosi’s leadership bid.

McMurray’s Orientation Comes On Several Fronts

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic congressional candidate Nate McMurray has had a turbulent week so far.

McMurray decided to attend the congressional orientation down in D.C. after a late invite from friendly Democratic members. However, by late Tuesday, he said the Republican-led Committee on House Administration had essentially rescinded the invitation.

With the support of his own party, the NY-27 candidate sought to keep things quiet while the two sides battled it out internally. Yesterday afternoon, he confirmed he was being blocked from participating in any joint events.

McMurray blamed the decision on his Republican opponent, with whom he is still battling over the outcome of the general election.

“I am very disappointed by Congressional Republicans catering to Chris Collins’ demands, who is under indictment on 11 felony counts and spent his campaign lying and hiding from his constituents,” McMurray said. “I came to D.C. to equip myself to hit the ground running and better serve the people of Western New York once the results are official.”

“It is shameful that Collins is continuing his efforts to diminish the will of the voters and call this race before all votes have been counted. As usual, he is actively undermining the future of this district and our country.”

The public reaction to his claims appeared to have helped McMurray’s cause, as he tweeted last night that he was back at orientation.

“We shamed Mr. Collins’ buddies (who tried to kick us out) into letting us back into orientation,” McMurray claimed. “What can I say? Never quit. And…#FightLikeHell.”

A spokesperson for the House Administration Committee told the New York Post McMurray was not initially invited because he had conceded the NY-27 race on election night, and the invitation has since been extended.

McMurray, who has since insisted that his emotional speech last Tuesday was not a concession, remains down several thousand votes to Collins, but believes he has begun closing the gap as absentee ballots are counted.

Full Slate Ahead For Morelle After Tonight’s Swearing-In Ceremony

From the Morning Memo:

Congressman-elect Joe Morelle, describes today as the “relatively easy” day for him this week.

All he has to do is take part in the congressional orientation process for all new members as well as attend his own swearing-in ceremony this evening. On Wednesday, Morelle said things start in earnest.

“It’s a little surreal,” he said. “Obviously we’ve been planning this for the last couple months but you get through elections sometimes, we really focus on the campaign and then it’s over and then you have to really, especially in our case, quickly get your head sort of reoriented.”

Unlike other new members, Morelle will start voting immediately. Last week, the Democrat not only won his mid-term race but also the special election to serve out the remainder of the late-Louise Slaughter’s terms.

Morelle said he’s not sure what bills will be in front of him between now and Friday but has staff working on it.

“I have some folks that have already traveled ahead of me to Washington and they’re scoping that out and then we’ll get a rundown on the bills that are going to be before the House,” he said.

Morelle does have family members in D.C. for the ceremony. He said while the work ahead of him and the speed at which everything’s happening can make it difficult to focus, the significance of the moment isn’t lost on him.

“It’s obviously an incredible privilege and an honor to be chosen to represent anyone’s community so I’m excited by that,” he said. “I’m humbled by it and obviously the chance to finish out Louise’s last several weeks here is a very special moment.”

Morelle considered Slaughter a close friend and read a passage at her funeral in March.

NY-22: Police Conference of NY Endorses Tenney

From the Morning Memo:

The Police Conference of New York endorsed Rep. Claudia Tenney in her bid for re-election to New York’s 22nd District.

“Claudia Tenney is the law and order candidate. In Congress, she has always stood up to support our men and women in blue. She’s successfully delivered important funding for equipment upgrades for local police departments and the resources we need to keep our communities and families safe. The Police Conference of New York proudly endorses Claudia Tenney’s candidacy for the United States House of Representatives, said President of the Police Conference of New York, Richard Wells.

Tenney faces Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi in the upcoming general election.

“Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line each day to keep our families safe. We are all grateful for their service and sacrifice and it is a distinct honor to receive this endorsement. In Congress, I’ve been a staunch advocate for law enforcement, and fought tirelessly to secure federal funding that provides our law enforcement with the best resources possible to keep our communities safe and secure our border,” said Claudia Tenney. “I will continue to be a strong voice for our state and local law enforcement officials.”

In a recent October Spectrum News-Siena College poll, Brindisi led Tenney 46 to 45 percent. 53 percent of district voters said they approved of the job President Trump is doing and that same number prefers Republicans to maintain control in Congress.

The candidates faced off in a Spectrum News debate yesterday, Thursday, October 25th at Colgate University.