Getting an early start
WASHINGTON — Two members of Long Island’s Congressional delegation made news in the final hours of the first day of the new Congress.
On Thursday night, Rep. Pete King was one of seven Republicans who broke with President Donald Trump and voted yes on a Democrat-sponsored measure to end much of the federal government shutdown by funding it through September. This bill is a mirror copy of what the GOP-controlled Senate passed in December but a measure the outgoing GOP majority in the House refused to take up. The other six who joined King were Elise Stefanik and John Katko of upstate along with Will Hurd of Texas, Fred Upton of Michigan, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Greg Walden of Oregon.
However, King declined to go any further and join five others on his side of the aisle in a second vote that would fund the Department of Homeland Security until February while negotiations continue over the border wall. King favors funding for the wall in return for protecting DACA recipients, part of a strategy some Republicans believe can end the stalemate.
Earlier in the evening, new rules were approved for House members, including a change that would forbid any member from serving as an officer or member of a board of a publicly held or publicly regulated business. Democrat Kathleen Rice first proposed the conflict-of-interest ban in 2018 after upstate GOP Rep. Chris Collins was indicted on charges related to his membership on the board of a biotechnology company. Collins was re-elected and awaits trial on charges that he tried to influence fellow members of Congress on policy that would have benefitted the business’ prospects.
Rice’s board-membership ban, which the Senate has in place, failed to gain traction in the then-GOP-controlled House. Once the Democrats won control of the chamber in November, she worked to have the ban included in the package of oversight and ethics changes her party prioritized at the start of the new Congress.
Decisions, decisions ...
The latest from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is that she’s “definitely thinking” about running for president in 2020. The New York Democrat said as much in December, and added that she would think about it over the holidays and would decide soon.
The holidays are over and no announcement yet, even as other Democrats including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren have set up exploratory committees and jumped in with both feet.
Gillibrand hasn’t been entirely silent, though. The senator is running a Facebook ad that says, “I’m ready to give President Trump the fight of his life – but I can’t do it alone. That’s why I need another 182 people to stand with us.”
The ad, visible in Facebook’s political ad archive, has been active since mid-December. It’s one of a few with similar constructions, asking 182 more social media users to click and stand with Gillibrand regarding issues like Medicare for All and criminal justice reform. The Trump version could be read as a promise of general obstruction to the president from Capitol Hill, but it works as a presidential campaign slogan, too.
Gillibrand has been on a book tour and is reportedly making campaign staffing choices. If it looks like a duck and talks like a duck, is it a presidential candidate?
Gillibrand just needs 182 more people to commit …
Yes she can
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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo may say he’s not in charge of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, but he’s certainly trying to own the L train project -- and control the messaging.
A day after Cuomo announced a new plan for the L train tunnel, which would avoid shutting down the line as initially planned, he held a conference call with reporters that mostly seemed to repeat some of his statements from the day before. During Friday’s call, Cuomo called on the MTA board to hold an emergency meeting to approve the new L train plan, talked about enlisting Tesla and Elon Musk to help with bigger subway signaling issues, and emphasized the need for new thinking.
But Cuomo’s proposal for the L train has met with significant questions from advocates and experts. And he faced a skeptical audience among reporters Friday, too. In trying to explain his involvement in the L train project now -- three years after discussions about it had begun -- Cuomo painted a picture of how he was responding to constituent concerns, noting that a Brooklyn man grabbed him by the lapels during the gubernatorial campaign and was “vociferous” about the L train situation. “That stuck with me,” Cuomo said.
Does that sound like a potential campaign commercial in the future - especially if the lapel-grabber can be located?
After all, perhaps the real audience Cuomo is speaking to is a broader, national one. For them, the message from the last two days is far simpler:
One of the state’s most significant problems is the NYC subway system.
And it’s Cuomo who is stepping up to fix it.