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Analyzing the latest votes in Congress

WASHINGTON -- Amid a series of routine bipartisan votes, the House last week considered two more contentious issues that could have longer-lasting political ramifications.

But Western New York's representatives voted in predictable, party-line ways on both of those measures.

First, the House rejected a proposal to ban abortions that are based on sex selection -- but that happened only because it was considered under a procedure that requires a two-thirds majority. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, both voted against that measure, which is no surprise, given that they typically support abortion rights. Rep. Tom Reed, a Corning Republican and abortion opponent, voted for the measure.

Abortion rights supporters and opponents are likely to try to use the issue to rally their respective bases in the coming fall election.

More surprisingly, the House approved a measure that allows project labor agreements on defense construction projects. The reliably pro-labor Hochul and Higgins favored the measure, while Reed opposed it.

Not only was the measure sponsored by a Republican --  Rep. Michael Grimm of Staten Island -- it also proved that on a rare occasion, a pro-labor measure can pass the GOP-led House.

-- Jerry Zremski

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Here are the votes of Western New York's four members of the House of Representatives and the state's two U.S. senators on major legislation in Congress last week. A "Y" means the member voted for the measure; an "N" means the member voted against the measure; an "A" means the member did not vote.

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HOUSE

* FDA Reauthorization: The House passed the Food and Drug Administration Reform Act, sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich. The bill would reauthorize and extend the Food and Drug Administration's user-fee programs for prescription drugs and medical devices and establish user-fee programs for generic drugs and biosimilars. Upton said the bill would promote "American innovation by improving the predictability, consistency, transparency, and efficiency of FDA regulation."

The vote May 30 was 387 yeas to 5 nays.

Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Y; Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, Y; Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, A; Tom Reed, R-Corning, Y.

Continue reading "Analyzing the latest votes in Congress" »

Analyzing the latest votes in Congress

WASHINGTON -- Some 51 of the nation's 100 senators, including the two Democrats from New York, last week voted to prevent student loan interest  rates from doubling this summer, thereby sending the measure down to defeat.

That is not a typo. That is the filibuster in action.

Continue reading "Analyzing the latest votes in Congress" »

Turner appeals to Catholic voters in Buffalo

Rep. Bob Turner brought his Senate campaign to Buffalo today, appealing to the city's significant Catholic voting bloc by evoking New York Cardinal Timothy J. Dolan and Buffalo Bishop Edward U. Kmiec in criticizing the Obama administration's health care mandates.

Turner, a Queens congressman seeking to challenge Democratic Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand this fall, appeared at GOP Headquarters in downtown Buffalo to express his dissatisfaction with the administration requirements that religious institutions provide birth control and some abortion services for employees.

"New Yorkers should rally behind the more than 40 religious organizations across the country who have been forced to sue the Obama administration over infringement of their First Amendment rights," Turner said. "President Obama has made a reckless and unconstitutional expansion of the federal government the primary focus of his administration and this latest threat to religious liberty is yet another example.

"Trampling over the First Amendment is a bridge too far and Mr. Obama will have to account for his actions with the millions of voters who support a fundamental American right of freedom of religion."

Turner said he supports Dolan and Kmiec in a suit against the federal government's mandate.

The congressman is facing Manhattan attorney Wendy Long and Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos in the June 26 Republican primary. The winner will face incumbent Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand in the general election.

--Robert J. McCarthy

Washington Politics Now chat with Jerry Zremski

The News features a live chat on Politics Now weekly at 1 p.m. Thursdays. Today's is hosted by News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski, with the focus being on politics in the nation's capital and the resulting effect on Western New York.

The schedule for other Politics Now chats is: First Thursday of month: Aaron Besecker on Buffalo City Hall; second: Denise Jewell Gee on Erie County Hall; third: Tom Precious on Albany. The News' Bob McCarthy also joins the chats when available.

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Analyzing the latest votes in Congress

WASHINGTON -- The passage of a massive defense authorization bill for fiscal 2013 highlighted last week's House votes last week.

It's a good bill for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, since it prevents the Pentagon's proposed shutdown of the 107th Airlift Wing there. That being the case, it is no surprise that the three Western New York lawmakers who voted on the bill -- Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst; Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo; and Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning -- all voted for it.

A more typical partisan split occurred on an amendment to the defense bill that would have stripped out a provision allowing for the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects, even if they are U.S. citizens. Hochul and Higgins supported that amendment, while Reed did not.

Meanwhile, the highlight of the Senate's calendar for the week was the passage of legislation reauthorizing the Import-Export Bank. That measure won a great deal of bipartisan support, but tea party Republicans opposed it, saying the bank -- which promotes international trade -- was just another example of the government meddling too much in business. Both of New York's senators backed the reauthorization of the Import-Export Bank.

--Jerry Zremski

Here are the votes of Western New York's four members of the House of Representatives and the state's two U.S. senators on major legislation in Congress last week. A "Y" means the member voted for the measure; an "N" means the member voted against the measure; an "A" means the member did not vote.

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HOUSE

* Blue Alert Network: The House passed the National Blue Alert Act, sponsored by Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y. The bill would establish a national Blue Alert communications network within the U.S. Justice Department to disseminate information to the media and law enforcement agencies about suspects in the death or injury of a law enforcement officer. Grimm said it "will enhance the safety of our communities as well as the law enforcement officers who protect them."

The vote May 15 was 394 yeas to 1 nay.

Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Y; Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, Y; Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, A; Tom Reed, R-Corning, Y.

Continue reading "Analyzing the latest votes in Congress" »

Analyzing the latest votes in Congress

WASHINGTON -- Beneath the radar screen, and at least temporarily, it seems that the House is acting in a more bipartisan manner.

And Western New York's lawmakers fit into that short-term trend.

Last week, for example, all three local representatives who voted -- Democrats Brian Higgins and Kathleen C. Hochul, along with Republican Tom Reed -- supported reauthorizing the Import/Export Bank. They voted in tandem on a measure, which failed, to increase funding for the Economic Development Administration. They supported increased funding for community-oriented policing. And they rejected a 1 percent across-the-board cut in funding to Commerce, Justice and science programs.

Those votes may be just a quirk of the legislative calendar, which brought issues to the floor that New York Democrats and Republican could agree on. Or they could be a sign of evolution -- especially by Rep. Tom Reed of Corning, a conservative Republican who crossed party lines to join Democrats on some of those measures.

--Jerry Zremski

Here are the votes of Western New York's four members of the House of Representatives and the state's two U.S. senators on major legislation in Congress last week. A "Y" means the member voted for the measure; an "N" means the member voted against the measure; an "A" means the member did not vote.

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HOUSE

* Economic Development Administration: The House rejected an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Michael H. Michaud, D-Maine, to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Ac. The amendment would have increased funding for the Economic Development Administration by $38 million and offset the increase by cutting an identical amount from census programs. Michaud said his amendment would have continued "level funding for a program that is uniquely designed to address almost any economic development activity," including "chronically poor and distressed areas, post-disastrous economic recovery, and the consequences of plant closures or downsizing." An opponent, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., said the EDA was "a very, very political use of capital" that failed to help the economy.

The vote May 8 was 190 yeas to 218 nays.

Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Y; Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, Y; Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, A; Tom Reed, R-Corning, Y.

Continue reading "Analyzing the latest votes in Congress" »

Analyzing the latest votes in Congress

WASHINGTON -- Congress spent last week in recess, but there were a couple House votes from the tail end of the previous week that offer interesting proof that bipartisanship is not entirely dead.

First, the House voted almost unanimously to pass the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act, which creates a task force to try to find ways to bolster online security. It's the modern-day version of motherhood-and-apple-pie legislation, and only 10 lawmakers -- most from the farthest tip of the Republican Party's libertarian right wing -- voted against it.

Western New York's House members supported both that bill and a Republican measure keeping federally backed student loan rates steady at 3.4 percent for another year. Democrats didn't like the fact that the bill financed the lower interest rate by trimming $12 billion from the Obama health care reform program, but 13 of them -- including Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst -- voted for it anyway.

During a visit home last month, "I looked into the eyes of over 40 students at Daemen College struggling to pay for college," Hochul said in explaining her vote for the bill. "I saw their concern about increasing interest rates and whether they could afford the additional charges if the interest rate were to double."

--Jerry Zremski

Here are the votes of Western New York's four members of the House of Representatives and the state's two U.S. senators on major legislation in Congress last week. A "Y" means the member voted for the measure; an "N" means the member voted against the measure; an "A" means the member did not vote.

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HOUSE

* Cybersecurity Reforms:The House passed the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act, sponsored by Rep. Michael T. McCaul, R-Texas. The bill would establish a private-public task force to pursue improvements in cybersecurity, create a cybersecurity education program and establish procurement standards for computer hardware and software to account for cybersecurity concerns. McCaul said, "These commonsense reforms are a baseline of what we need to secure our infrastructure" and "take action before life is lost and our economy and defenses have been weakened to the point of damaging our country."

The vote April 27 was 395 yeas to 10 nays.

Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Y; Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, Y; Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, A; Tom Reed, R-Corning, Y.

Continue reading "Analyzing the latest votes in Congress" »

The Read: Political chatter from elsewhere

Each Saturday on the Politics Now blog you'll find a list of stories that caught the eyes of The News' political reporters. Here's a sampling of what they were reading in recent weeks:

"Part-Time Required Hours For Some Full-Time Legislative Staffers," by Kenneth Lovett, the New York Daily News' Daily Politics blog. Calling it one of Albany's "dirty little secrets," Lovett writes that part-timers are raking in the dough while being left with time that can be used for campaign work and other jobs.

"Hillary Clinton would crush Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a presidential race," by Kenneth Lovett, New York Daily News. When Gov. Andrew Cuomo was asked the day after this story if he had a reaction to the poll's findings, he had a rather simple response: "No.''

"Senate passes ed pork to Republican districts," by Jimmy Vielkind, Albany Times Union's Capitol Confidential. It's supposed to be the age of no budget pork. But what do you call aid that gets doled out only to partisan districts? Vielkind reports that Republicans in the State Senate pushed through $9.95 million in aid to schools in Republican districts this week, drawing complaints from their Democratic colleagues. Apparently, it's all within the rules.

"Andrew Cuomo vs. Hillary Clinton in 2016?'' by Maggie Haberman, Politco. It's going to be a long five years if this keeps up. Haberman writes Clinton, like Cuomo, is doing her own version of a 2016 White House dance.

“Twitter becomes a key real-time tool for campaigns,” by Karen Tumulty, Washington Post. This piece explores the use of Twitter through examples from both sides of the aisle in Washington, “showing how Twitter is redefining the means by which politicians shape, distribute and refine their messages.” Tumulty writes, “The six-year-old microblogging site came into its own this presidential cycle, but the past few weeks have demonstrated how clearly it has become the tool of choice for getting something into the political bloodstream …”

Washington Politics Now chat with Jerry Zremski

The News features a live chat on Politics Now weekly at 1 p.m. Thursdays. Today's is hosted by News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski, with the focus being on politics in the nation's capital and the resulting effect on Western New York.

The schedule for other Politics Now chats is: First Thursday of month: Aaron Besecker on Buffalo City Hall; third: Tom Precious on Albany; fourth: Jerry Zremski on Washington. The News' Bob McCarthy also joins the chats when available.

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Analyzing the latest votes in Congress

WASHINGTON -- The House spent much of last week on natural resource and transportation issues, but two votes stand out -- both for their importance and for the willingness of local members of Congress to cross party lines.

When the House passed a three-month extension of transportation funding, 113 Democrats voted no, complaining that the stopgap measure was no way to run a highway system and that Congress should finally come to a long-term solution to pay for our nation's roads. But Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, and Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., were among the 69 Democrats who voted yes.

That's no surprise, really, given that both lawmakers have a keen interest in bringing highway funds back to New York.

But Hochul's vote for a Republican small business tax plan was a surprise.

Many Democrats lashed out at the bill as a blunt-object tax givaway that could end up benefitting hedge funds as well as corner bakeries, but that's not how Hochul saw it.

"We have to do everything we can to help our small businesses, and by giving them a tax break they will have the resources to expand inventory, but also they will be able to hire more employees," she said.

On the Senate side, one vote stood out last week. To no one's surprise, Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., voted for the "Buffett Rule" tax hike on millionaires and billionaires.

--Jerry Zremski

Here are the votes of Western New York's four members of the House of Representatives and the state's two U.S. senators on major legislation in Congress last week. A "Y" means the member voted for the measure; an "N" means the member voted against the measure; an "A" means the member did not vote.

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HOUSE

* Hunting and Fishing in National Park System: The House rejected an amendment sponsored by Rep. Rush D. Holt, D-N.J., to the Sportsmen's Heritage Act. The amendment would have stated that all units of the National Park System were exempt from the bill's provisions for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting management of federal lands. Holt said his amendment would ensure that "we don't carelessly open up to gunfire consecrated grounds like the Civil War battlefields, like the parks and beaches and forests of our national recreation areas."

The vote April 17 was 152 yeas to 260 nays.

Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Y; Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, N; Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, A; Tom Reed, R-Corning, N.

Continue reading "Analyzing the latest votes in Congress" »

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

[email protected]


Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

[email protected]


Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri | [email protected]


Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski | [email protected]

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