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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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* 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.

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What our members of Congress did last week

WASHINGTON — Here in the nation's capitol, we call it "recess," but that doesn't mean our local members of Congress are out playing. Well, we hope not, anyway.

Actually, in all seriousness, recess is a time for federal lawmakers to go home and meet with constituents and other local leaders. And that's pretty much what our four House members and two New York senators did last week.

There's one sad exception: Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, broke her leg in a fall at an event for women leaders in New York City last week and didn't return to the Rochester area till the weekend.

Among our other members:

* Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, announced an $11.7 million federal grant to rebuild the runway at Niagara Falls International Airport on Thursday. Earlier in the week she met with seniors at the Blocher Homes adult care facility in Williamsville and made several stops in Livingston County, visiting a dairy farm, meeting with the president of Geneseo State College and touring American Rock Salt, the nation's largest salt mine.

* Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, visited the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. to check on waterfront work planned for the summer. Higgins also appeared with Gov. Andrew Cuomo as he announced a major commitment of state funds to local infrastructure projects, and met with the top local official at Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

* Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, spent most of his week meeting constituents, including doctors and home-builders in his district. In addition, Reed held a meeting of his Veterans Advisory Board and an event in Corning promoting the Internal Revenue Service's free tax filing option.

 * Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., held several events in Orange and Dutchess counties. He also visited a hydroelectric plant in Columbia County and was on hand for the grand opening of BAE Systems' new facility in Binghamton. The defense contractor's previous facility had experienced severe flood damage.

* Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., held a mentoring event with the Partnership for New York City. In addition, she met with New York City ministers and the editor of the New York Daily News.

Jerry Zremski

The Read: Political chatter from elsewhere

Each Saturday on the Politics Now blog you will find a list of stories that caught the eyes of The News' political reporters. Over the last week, here is a sampling of what they were reading:

--"Redrawn Districts Present a Hurdle for Democrats" by Raymond Hernandez, New York Times. Reps. Kathy Hochul and Louise Slaughter top a list of New York Democrats that the NYT points out have suddenly found themselves on the defensive in districts "once considered safe for the party." A story that appeared in the Times on Monday pegged Hochul as "considered among the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents in New York."

--"Gov. Cuomo could be on collision course with Clintons in 2016 race for White House" by Kenneth Lovett, New York Daily News. It’s been whispered about for months: the political steamroller who could make Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2016 White House ambitions just a tad more difficult. And then former President Bill Clinton –- Cuomo’s onetime boss -– dropped the bomb the other day: He’d be “happy’’ if his wife, Hillary, ran for president in four years. A couple days after the former president’s shot-heard-around-Albany interview on Good Morning America, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told a television interviewer that she would “love’’ to see Hillary Clinton run in 2016. [It’s noteworthy that Pelosi was a big booster of former Gov. Mario Cuomo during his past White House rumination days.]

--Check out Texts from Hillary, a Tumblr that juxtaposes pictures of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Here's some insight on it from MSNBC's Helen A.S. Popkin.

--"Romney team in New York looks to deliver knockout primary blow to Rick Santorum" by Jason Horowitz, Washington Post. Horowitz writes that if Romney's wins in primaries earlier this week "served as a death sentence for Santorum’s campaign, New York promises to be the executioner."

Analyzing the latest votes in Congress

WASHINGTON -- Budget votes were among the most significant ones that took place in the House last week, and they were largely insignificant.

In the end, the House approved a fiscal 2013 budget plan put forth by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., that would dramatically cut social spending while reforming Medicare. Western New York's representatives, like most of their colleagues nationwide, voted along party lines on the Ryan measure.

That vote is mostly symbolic because the Ryan budget is dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate -- and because federal law doesn't even really require Congress to pass a budget. All it has to do, really, is allocate funds and set up a tax system to pay for expenditures.

The House and Senate also agreed last week on a 90-day extension of federal highway funding, and while such temporary stopgap measures are generally no big deal, this measure is interesting for one reason. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, opposed it. Both are strong advocates of more robust federal infrastructure spending.

"The House Majority is playing political games with the future of vital transportation projects and the millions of jobs they will provide for hardworking Americans," said Slaughter. "Their failure to gain the support of even their own Members (for a long-term highway bill) has put us in the untenable position of having to vote on a 90 day extension which has grave, long term consequences for construction projects across the nation."

--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

* Regulating Intra-Company Swaps Trades: The House passed a bill, sponsored by Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, that would exempt inter-affiliate swaps of derivatives from margin and clearing regulations established by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. Stivers said the legislation would prevent "internal transactions from being subject to duplicative regulations that could drive jobs overseas and increase costs for consumers."

The vote on March 26, was 357 yeas to 36 nays.

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

Continue reading "Analyzing the latest votes in Congress" »

Video: Jerry Zremski's Week in Washington, April 2

 

Audio: The News' Andriatch discusses challenge facing Hochul on WBFO

The News' Bruce Andriatch was a guest on WBFO-FM 88.7 and talked about the re-election challenge Democrat Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul faces in a redrawn district as well as other suburban matters:


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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.

rmccarthy@buffnews.com


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.

tprecious@buffnews.com


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 | jterreri@buffnews.com


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 | jzremski@buffnews.com

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