Congress

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.

Zeldin Fundraises Off NY’s ‘Socialist Wave’

Long Island Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, a close ally of President Trump, is seeking to capitalize on the rise of New York’s liberal star, Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the role she played in the death of the Amazon HQ2 project.

Zeldin sent out an email fundraising blast last night with the subject line: “The Socialist Wave.” In it, he decried Ocasio-Cortez for blocking “25,000 good-paying jobs from coming to Long Island City,” and also said she’s “trying to force the entire country onto her terrible “Green New Deal” that could cost taxpayers $93 TRILLION.”

The congressman then went on to name check another infamous Democratic socialist, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who recently launched his second bid at the White House, raising a significant amount of campaign cash in a very short period of time.

“If this isn’t scary enough,” Zeldin wrote of Ocasio-Cortez’s efforts, “Bernie Sanders’ socialist base is fired up. He raised nearly $6 MILLION in less than 24 hours one day last week. It’s URGENT that we get your help to fight back!”

“…Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are determined to takeover control of the entire federal government in 2020. Their efforts could empty the wallets of American taxpayers, and their open border policies would abolish vital agencies like ICE and leave our borders open to criminals,” the congressman continued.”

“This isn’t about politics; this is about a threat to our core American values. We can NEVER let America become a socialist country.”

Zeldin last November defeated Democratic newcomer Perry Gershon, who, like many first-time candidates, said he was motivated to run out of a disillusionment with the broken and polarized political system. This is Zeldin’s third term in Congress, and his first as a member of the minority.

During his victory speech and election night, Zeldin spoke of the importance of “uniting” the country, and said he believed he had an “important role to play” in that effort.

This email, however, demonstrates that sentiment was fairly short lived. There’s a fairly robust conservative moment on Long Island that Zeldin is clearly playing here.

The death of the Amazon deal has been a significant issue on Long Island, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo taking the suburban Democratic state Senate members there to task for failing to prevent their conference from opposing, and in his eyes, eventually helping to scuttle, the project.

Zeldin isn’t the first GOP lawmaker to seek to make political hay from the demise of the Amazon project. The Senate GOP recently purchased Facebook ads highlighting the role their Democratic colleagues played in killing the deal.

Reed Pushes To Clawback Executive Emergency Power

From the Morning Memo:

Southern Tier Republican Rep. Tom Reed is among the cosponsors of a bill aimed at limiting the president’s power to declare a national emergency.

This comes after President Donald Trump used the power in an attempt to divert funding to build a wall on the United States-Mexico border after his push to secure the cash through Congress failed.

Reed, who has long been a Trump supporter, has proposed amending the National Emergencies Act so Congress would have to approve any emergency declaration within 60 days, which is similar to the War Powers Act. He insisted the legislation is not a rebuke of Trump’s action, necessarily, and the crisis at the border speaks for itself.

“This resolution speaks to the politicization of Congress and its failure to lead,” the congressman said. “Instead of proactively solving problems Congress has delegated our precious power away. We must take this power back. Otherwise, over time, Congress will be seen as an advisory body instead of the co-equal branch of government the country needs.”

The bill, while bipartisan, is not specifically led by Reed’s Problem Solvers Caucus, but he did release his statement in conjunction with the group’s co-chair, New Jersey Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer.

“National emergencies are no way to govern, regardless of party,” Gottheimer said. “The Constitution is clear about our authority and responsibilities.  By amending the National Emergencies Act, this bipartisan legislation will help Congress wrest back control and prevent further abuse of executive authority.”

The House voted earlier this week to overturn Trump’s national emergency, and the Senate still needs to take it up. It needs only a simple majority to pass but even so, the president could still veto the bill, and at this point, an override appears unlikely.

Lawmakers Urge FAA To Implement Pilot Database

From the Morning Memo:

Federal lawmakers in New York used the 10th anniversary of the crash of Flight 3407 to urge the Federal Aviation Administration to establish an Electronic Pilot Training Database.

The reference tool, which would give airlines full access to the training records of commercial pilots, was included in safety reforms approved by Congress in 2010. However, to this point it has been stuck in the testing phase.

The 2010 legislation was championed by the family members of those who died when Flight 3407 crashed in Clarence Center, killing 50 people, including a 7-month pregnant woman. Members of the WNY delegation and both U.S. Senators wrote to the FAA secretary this week and urged action.

“On the ten year anniversary of Flight 3407 tragedy, we launch a new push to finally establish a new pilot training database – after years of delay and foot-dragging – that will give specific information on the training of all commercial airline pilots,” U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

“Our skies are safer today than ever before because the Flight 3407 families united as one and spearheaded a movement to pass life-saving commercial airline regulations just like this one. I will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the 3407 Families until we pass every element of their life-saving agenda.”

Lawmakers said the database was actually required to be in effect no later than April 2017 – a deadline that has obviously already passed. An audit by the Department of Transportations Office of the Inspector General found the FAA has actually missed several deadlines mandated by the legislation.

“Ten years later, the crash of Flight 3407 still weighs heavily on our community,” Republican NY-27 Rep. Chris Collins said. “The families have worked tirelessly to make our skies safe. The Pilot Record Database is one of the last pieces of the puzzle and it is time for it to be fully implemented.”

The database provision was included in the legislation after an investigation revealed that Colgan Air hired the captain of Flight 3407, without full knowledge of his complete training record, which showed that he failed three FAA practical tests prior to operating the plane.

WNY Congressional Caucus On SOTU

From the Morning Memo:

The responses came in quickly from members of Congress in Western New York following President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address.

Although the speech was billed as a call for unity, the reactions were unsurprisingly divided by party.

Republican Congressman Chris Collins, NY-27, who no longer serves on any committees due to a federal indictment, released the shortest statement. In it, he praised the president for his leadership.

“We have passed monumental tax and criminal justice reforms. Our economy is flourishing and American families have more money in their pockets, but we still have work to do. While President Trump is fighting for fair trade and the American worker, it is time for Congress to come together to strengthen our borders and fix our broken immigration system. Together, we can accomplish a greater America,” he said.

Rep. Joe Morelle, attending the speech for the first time as the Democratic representative for the 25th congressional district, said he appreciated the call for cooperation. He did not however, think Trump’s agenda or speech were in the spirit of bipartisanship.

“Ultimately, the President’s address only served to further showcase his disturbing world that is divorced from the realities that are confronting everyday, hard-working Americans,” Morelle said. “That is why in the President’s absence, my colleagues and I in the House will continue to provide the leadership the American people need and deserve.”

The Democrat did not respond to Trump’s criticism of New York’s recently passed Reproductive Health Act, even though he co-sponsored the bill while in the state Legislature. He did discuss the need for a new infrastructure plan and new ideas about healthcare.

Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Reed, R-NY-23, who has tried to lead a bipartisan movement with his Problem Solvers Caucus, gave the president credit for a “soaring economy and a restored leadership around the globe.” He challenged his colleagues in Congress to work together to support many of the priorities Trump laid out like (once again) health care, infrastructure and immigration.

“Now extremists on both sides of the aisle have a choice to make: Will they adopt a willingness to compromise and ensure a legacy of greatness for our children and grandchildren, or instead, choose to play ‘gotcha politics,’ and guarantee the American people lose out on future opportunities? We sincerely hope they choose to put the I American people first,” Reed said.

Democrat Brian Higgins, NY-26, was perhaps the most critical of Trump. He said the president’s tenure has “been mired by a haphazard agenda driven by hurtful rhetoric and policies that divide America.” Higgins called on Trump to lead by example, including specifically support for a $1 trillion infrastructure investment and border security based on facts, “not fueled by fear.”