When duty calls
When Lee Zeldin phoned in to take part in the inaugural meeting of President Donald Trump’s “Opening Up America Again Congressional Group” Thursday, the Republican did not hit *1 to line up for a chance to speak to the hastily convened bipartisan group.
“I am on the phone with the White House every day,” said Zeldin, who has a close working relationship with Trump and his administration. “It seemed like a great chance for people who do not have as much access to have an opportunity.”
It was an opportunity to chat up the president that Tom Suozzi took full advantage of, according to Zeldin.
In an interview, Suozzi, a Democrat, told The Point that he thanked Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for putting together the panel and for the aid they’ve given New York during the coronavirus crisis. He also made an impassioned plea that the key to reopening the economy, particularly in New York, was a commitment to widespread testing of every kind. But he made his strongest case about the money the state needs to deal with the current burden.
“I told them we are the epicenter of this storm,” Suozzi said. “I stressed that the Health and Human Services and the Medicare and Medicaid folks need to create some funding formulas for helping that are based on the rate of coronavirus infection, not totally irrelevant formulas that short New York and Long Island and our hospitals and divert funding that’s desperately needed here to places that are struggling far less.”
The outcry over how such money is divided up in the $2.2 trillion federal stimulus has been bipartisan from the state’s congressional delegation, as money to hospitals was divvied up based on past Medicare funding formulas and not outbreak numbers.
And Zeldin, for one, was impressed.
“He’s been an important leader advocating for his district, the Island and the state, on the SALT deduction, the needs of local and state governments and our hospitals, and he did a great job today explaining what New York is going through and what it needs and deserves,” said Zeldin of Suozzi.
Both representatives said the call included 18 to 20 members, but a list later released by the White House listed 32 — 10 Democrats and 22 Republicans. A news release from Zeldin after the call referred to the panel as the White House Task Force on Reopening the Economy, a smoother but far less Trumpy moniker than what the White House later named it.
But it’s not clear whether the group will exist beyond Thursday. Both men were asked to join the group Wednesday. It has no further meetings or calls scheduled, they said.
—Lane Filler @lanefiller
Open congressional seat: Day 157
In the race to succeed Rep. Pete King in CD2, Democrat Jackie Gordon had a big first quarter of 2020 fundraising.
The former Babylon Town councilwoman received $361,241 in total contributions through the end of March, outpacing GOP-endorsed Assemb. Andrew Garbarino, who brought in $100,543 in donations.
Gordon was helped by $92,862 in funds from political committees, much of that from the party establishment via Democratic PACs or the committees of fellow Democrats like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and impeachment team member Val Demings of Florida.
Garbarino also received thousands from GOP PACs and politicians like King, but he was outraised by primary opponent Assemb. Mike LiPetri, who brought in $136,270 in total contributions. Beyond Garbarino’s $100,000 in contributions, the Bayport Republican loaned his campaign $50,000.
Asked about his fundraising numbers, Garbarino told The Point that he had “literally been spending most of my days” dealing with constituents’ unemployment concerns.
In Long Island’s other hot congressional race, Rep. Lee Zeldin led the way in CD1 with $674,489 in total contributions, in a swing district where such sums have become routine.
On the Democratic side, Suffolk County Legis. Bridget Fleming led the group in total contributions for the quarter with $254,771. That was followed by Stony Brook scientist Nancy Goroff with $238,220, and 2018 challenger Perry Gershon with $175,084.
Fleming, who entered the race after the others, still has much less cash on hand than her opponents. But among the givers of that cash was Alexander R. Baldwin (profession? “Self Employed / Actor”), who maxed out to Fleming for both the primary and general.
Baldwin and wife Hilaria had given $2,700 to Gershon’s general election campaign last cycle but no money as of the latest filings.
Gershon, of course, ended up losing a tight race despite a blue wave-reaction against President Donald Trump, whom Baldwin plays on TV.
—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
Heads in the sand
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We’re staying home even longer, so more time to read
A month-plus into quarantine and Netflix getting old, the editorial board has been reaching for books to help entertain and guide us through the coronavirus pandemic.
That includes some new tomes and old favorites we’re unearthing from dusty bookshelves, or downloading online.
Here’s a selection of what we’ve been reading or what’s in our to-read pile.
- “The Overstory,” by Richard Powers: a novel about trees and the people who love them. Includes sex and ecoterrorism.
- “Mollie, and Other War Pieces,” by A.J. Liebling: dispatches from World War II, a window into another moment of crisis and heroism.
- “The Masque of the Red Death,” by Edgar Allan Poe: the upper crust tries to avoid a plague, in a parable about income inequality.
- “A Manual for Cleaning Women,” by Lucia Berlin: beautiful, funny and heart-wrenching short stories about women trying to make ends meet, including lots of warm-weather scenes in Mexico and South America that are good substitutes for current vacations.
- “The Great Influenza,” by John M. Barry: history, self-explanatory.
- “The Stand,” by Stephen King: a super-dark look at a pandemic featuring a biological weapon version of influenza that kills nearly everyone, the few people who survive, and how they rebuild a society.
- “Room,” by Emma Donoghue: a novel told from the perspective of a young child, who, with his mother, is held captive inside a single room. It’s all the young boy has ever known, that single room. Sound relatable?
- “To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee: If you haven’t read it already, now’s an excellent time to start. If you have, read it again. It’s worth a re-read. Afterwards, watch the movie starring the great Gregory Peck.
- “And the Band Played On,” by Randy Shifts: an important look at the AIDS crisis, what went wrong, how government officials failed us, the impact of politics, and the public fear involved.
- “Razzle Dazzle,” by Michael Riedel: a terrific insider look into the large corporations that build Broadway, the behind-the-scenes infighting, and more.
- “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made,” by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell: an oral history of “The Room,” an independent movie by auteur Tommy Wiseau that went terribly wrong. A testament to how bad leadership and poor decision-making left unchecked can lead to financial ruin. Sound familiar?
- “The March Of Folly,” by Barbara Tuchman: a historic global romp through examples of questionable leadership during moments of great importance.
- “Calypso,” by David Sedaris: If anyone can make you smile about social isolation, it's Mr. Sedaris.
- “1000 Years of Annoying The French,” by Stephen Clarke: a humorous Anglophilic historical addition to the cannon of insults reciprocally hurled across the English Channel.
- “Under Heaven,” by Guy Gavriel Kay: a gorgeously written reimagining of Tang Dynasty China (eighth century) and the An Shi rebellion, a revolt led by An Lushan, a barbarian general of the Chinese Army. The rebellion and ensuing famine and societal disruption are believed to have caused 40 million deaths.
- “The Good Old Stuff,” by John D. MacDonald: a classic collection of mystery short stories by an old-time master, because sometimes the world just gets too heavy.
If you want to share a suggestion with fellow Point readers, email us at email@example.com
—Newsday Opinion Staff