Feb 17th - 8:32 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered a full-throated cry during his brief public appearance at the tail end of caucus weekend to restore New York to its rightful place as the “progressive capital of the nation,” which – in his eyes – requires action this year on raising the hourly minimum wage.
“Minimum wage because if you work full-time you shouldn’t be below the poverty rate,” Cuomo said to cheers from a small crowd of caucus-goers. “If you work full-time you shouldn’t be poor, and if you work full-time you shouldn’t have to choose between eating and paying your rent. That’s why we have to raise the minimum wage.”
But speaking to reporters before he took the stage, Cuomo was more circumspect, admitting President Obama’s call during last week’s State of the Union address to bump the national minimum wage to $9 an hour – 25 cents more than the governor himself has proposed here in New York – had complicated the debate here.
Obama also called for indexing future minimum wage increases to the rate of inflation – something liberal advocates, as well as Democrats in the Senate and Assembly, have called on Cuomo to do, too. But his plan does not call for that.
“That’s one of the complications that happened now,” Cuomo said. “We proposed increasing the minimum wage to 8.75 an hour.”
“The president came out and said that he is proposing a minimum wage at nine dollars. We now have to justify the federal law and the possibility and probably that it passes as a state law. So that’s a little more complex, and we’re in the process of working through now.”
“…The Republicans say: As long as this is going to be done federally, why do we need to do it in the state of New York? I understand that. That assumes it happens federally, and if it actually passed federally at nine dollars, they would have a point.”
“But there’s a long way between here and there.”
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver quickly amended the minimum wage bill in his house (which already included indexing) to match Obama’s. But Cuomo said tonight he doesn’t see the need to re-propose his plan, noting there are many proposals on the table now, and everyone is fairly clear on where everyone else stands.
“The conversations are ongoing,” the governor explained. “We’re at the table we understand what everyone’s position is. We understand what the federal law is. What we have to figure out is what is the likelihood that the federal law will actually pass, or not, and if it’s going to pass, when, I don’t know. Depending on who you talk to.”
Cuomo did open the door to the possibility of taking his minimum wage proposal out of the executive budget, which he has argued he included there because increasing how much low-income New Yorkers earn has the potential to help boost the economy. (Businesses that oppose the move disagree heartily).
If minimum wage stays in the budget, Cuomo has the option of forcing it down the throats of the reluctant Republicans by forcing them to choose between a standing firm in their opposition to raising the hourly wage and shutting down the government.
Most observers don’t think things will come to that. In fact, due to the timing of the Easter and Passover holidays this year, the budget is expected to be early – perhaps completed within the next two weeks.
“We’ll see we’ll see where we are at the end of two weeks,” Cuomo said of the minimum wage debate. “Either it will be done in the budget or at the end of session.”
Cuomo received some support from Sen. Chuck Schumer, who was also on hand for caucus weekend. (I can’t recall when he has ever missed one). The state’s senior senator insisted the outlook for Obama’s $9-an-hour plan is “promising” – at least in the Democrat-controlled US Senate, which is expected to have the proposal on the floor by spring.
Schumer rather pragmatically said he doesn’t see why New York shouldn’t move forward with its own minimum wage increase plan, insisting that to wait for Congress to act isn’t necessary.
“I think each should go on their own and do the best they can,” Schumer said. “I don’t think one complicates the other in any way at all. I think the president was right to call for it nationally, and I think the New York Strate is right to go forward on its side.”
Feb 17th - 6:21 pm
It’s said that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.” The famous quote from Albert Einstein was repeated several times in Washington last week as the families of the victims of flight 3407 marked the four year anniversary of the crash that killed 50 people in Western New York. It was a somber anniversary some observed by expressing their frustration.
“There were a lot of emotions in the room and I think you saw that on display,” said Republican Congressman Tom Reed of Corning.
Reed stood with the family of the victims and several members of New York’s Congressional Delegation during a joint press conference at the Capitol Tuesday. After pledging his support for the continued push to implement new airline safety regulations in the wake of the crash, Reed introduced Western New York’s newest Congressman Chris Collins.
“Chris was one of the first people on the scene. He shares a commitment, along with the families of the victims, to make sure we get the new safety regulations implemented,” Reed said.
Collins was the Erie County Executive on February 12th, 2009. Fighting back tears, Collins said the images of the crash in Clarence Center will remain etched in his memory forever.
“I was in charge of the emergency response. I am overwhelmed right now. Cause I remember that night like it was yesterday,” said Collins.
Collins isn’t known for public displays of emotion. During his campaign for New York’s newly formed 27th Congressional District, Collins joked about how some people told him he needed to smile more.
Standing in front of those who lost loved ones, and the assembled National and Western New Yorkmedia, the Freshman Republican gave a fiery speech calling for a change in strategy.
“The loss of those 50 souls never should have happened. And we should not be standing here now asking the FAA to do a job. And I’m sorry. But a new deadline is unacceptable. To say, and I’m sorry Senator Schumer, to say that they’re going to meet the deadline; they’ve missed the deadline again, and again, and again. That is unacceptable. Words are unacceptable” Collins said.
Just minutes earlier New York’s Senior Senator was speaking at the very same podium. He acknowledged that two and half years after safety regulations were passed though Congress, the airline industry had not yet implemented some of the most important ones.
“It’s a long process,” Schumer said.
Schumer said the Federal Aviation Administration is still not enforcing rules that require all pilots, not just captains, to have 15-hundred hours of flight time before they’re certified. Schumer also said the FAA has not adopted enhancements to traditional training programs that would require the use of flight simulation training devices for flight crew members, and additional training in areas that are critical to safety.
“What we’ve all come to do is to tell the FAA to implement these rules by August and October 2013 deadline respectively. But to also make sure these rules are enforced on day one. The good news is we spoke to the FAA this morning and they’ve assured us that they are on track to meet both the August deadline for pilot certification and the October deadline for crew member training. They told us they will meet those deadlines,” Schumer said.
Eleven minutes after leaving the room to cast a vote on the Senate floor, a visibly annoyed Schumer retook the podium.
“I have something else I want to say,” Schumer said.
And in a rare misstep, the Brooklyn Democrat responded to remarks made by “Senator Collins.”
“I heard when I was out of the room that Senator Collins said we shouldn’t be tricked by the FAA. We’ve had a long experience of four years with the FAA. And we are going to watch them like hawks. As we have, and when they falter we get on their case and we make sure they do the job.”
Schumer said if the FAA failed to meet the new deadlines:
“They will be hearing from us to make sure it happens we are all on the same team here. And we’re all going to get this done together.”
The remarks by Collins and response by Schumer seemed unusual in a press conference that was otherwise well-choreographed. Afterward, Congressman Reed quickly stepped in to play peacemaker.
“I talked to the Senator afterwards, and we both agree we need to stay united. We need to send one loud unified voice. Chuck has been a very strong supporter of the efforts to get these new safety regulations though congress and implemented by the FAA. And I applaud him,” Reed said.
Reed was also quick to defend Collins. When asked to describe Collins’ remarks, Reed had a simple explanation.
“I don’t think it was an attack. It was just an emotional response to see what needs to get done, gets done,” Reed said.
A spokesperson for Collins declined to comment specifically on the incident.
“The focus should be the effort by Flight 3407 families and Congress to press the FAA to implement the new regulations that were passed by Congress. Congressman Collins was expressing his frustration that the FAA has yet to implement the new regulations,” said Grant Loomis, Collins’ Communications Director.
Tuesday, FAA representatives told 3407 family members that work to put the new regulations in place wouldn’t be completed until 2014. Loomis suggested the fact the FAA would miss another deadline, proved Collins’ frustrations were “founded.”
A day after the anniversary of the crash Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta sent a letter to Senators Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand clarifying the FAA’s position. Huerta said he hoped to complete work on the pilot qualifications rule by August and the flight crew member training rule by October.
As uncomfortable as the Collins-Schumer moment may have seemed for those watching, it certainly was a different approach.
“But I can promise the families now that I’m in this position that I’m not going to just listen to words. Words are not enough. And the airlines that have been fighting us are unconscionable,” Collins said.
Jan 23rd - 3:59 pm
During a Seante leadership news conference today in DC, Senator Chuck Schumer joked that the House Republicans have mellowed since their recent retreat to Williamsburg, Virginia, where the conference decided not to fight the White House over raising the debt ceiling.
Instead they proposed and passed a temporary extension today that also implements a new bill that would withhold Congress members salaries if they don’t pass a budget.
Schumer says he didn’t know what happened at the retreat to make the House GOP abandon their previous stance of demanding budget cuts matching the dollar amount that the debt ceiling was increased to. But he had some ideas.
“It sure had a mellowing effect on their members. Mayber there were deep breathing exercises. Soft Jazz music. But something good happened,” Schumer said. “Either way, we welcome the outcome of their retreat.”
Today the House passed the bill increasing the debt ceiling by a vote of 285-144. The Senate is expected to also pass the bill.
Jan 18th - 1:35 pm
ICYMI: During a brief stop at the College of St. Rose in Albany yesterday, Sen. Chuck Schumer said he believes there is room for compromise on gun control on Capitol Hill, despite the notorious gridlock in Washington.
“I’ve been on the phone this morning talking to conservative Democrats from red, red states, and Republicans from red, red states and say: Why can’t we come together on this?” Schumer said. “And they’re very open to it.”
“A number of…Ted Cruz, who is probably the most conservative new senator from Texas, said he’d be open to a unversial background check. I’m just saying that’ll be the starting point, the centerpiece.”
“…There are many areas for compromise. But the centerpiece where both sides can come together, I like to say this: It’s a sweet spot. If you look at both the likelihood of getting something passed, and the effectiveness of making us safe, the sweet spot is the universal background check. That’s the sweet spot, but there are be other places for compromise.”
It’s interesting that Schumer chose to use Cruz as an example, since he called the tea Party upstart senator’s runoff victory “a disaster for (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell, the Republicans and America” last August.
Reid Pillifant reports that Sean Rushton, a spokesman for Cruz, did not rule out the idea that there might be some points of agreement between his boss and the senior senator from New York, who also happens to be the second most powerful man in the Senate.
“Sen. Cruz outlined his position on Fox News Sunday two weeks ago, when he said the system can be ‘improved’ and referred to incomplete reporting of mental health information,” Rushton told Pillifant in an email that also included a link to the appearance in question.
Schumer is a longtime supporter and champion of gun control, and often notes that he wrote the so-called Brady Bill in the early 1990s. But, like most other Democrats in Congress, he hasn’t pushed terribly hard in recent years for more restrictive laws. Of course, Sandy Hook changed that – not only for Schumer and many other members of his party, but for President Obama as well.
I asked Schumer about the outlook for Obama’s other gun control proposals – those that require congressional approval and can’t be achieved through the executive actions he has already undertaken.
“I think the high capacity magazines has a decent amount of support,” he told me. “The assault weapons ban itself is going to be tough. But what the president said yesterday is right, he has to go around the country and rally support for it.”
Jan 17th - 5:17 pm
A coalition of good-government, advocacy, labor and labor-aligned groups are urging U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer to enact fillibuster reform in the chamber, writing in a letter sent today that the delay tactic has hurt the legislative process in Washington and blocked federal judges from taking their seats.
The groups released a series of reform suggestions that include streamlining the nomination process, eliminating the fillibuster on the motion to proceed, and require that those who want to block legislation or nominations take the floor in the chamber and actually speak (i.e. like something out of “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” )
The groups also want a rule that stipulates 41 senators must vote to continue debate rather than have 60 lawmakers vote to end it.
“These reforms are in the best interest of our democratic system. Reducing post-cloture debatetime would help you fill the long-standing judicial vacancies that have plagued New York’sfederal district courts, and would significantly benefit other states as well,” they wrote in their letter.
Jan 11th - 2:27 pm
As Politico reported today, former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s elevation to secretary of defense could hinge on whether New York Sen. Chuck Schumer — the third-ranking Democrat in the chamber — backs his nomination.
Schumer has dodged questions publicly on the issue of Hagel’s nomination until today, when he appeared in Elmira to announce federal funding for a local hospital.
Asked by our YNN colleague about the nomination, Schumer said he has unspecified concerns, which likely stem from the Nebraska Republican’s comments on Israel.
Though Schumer’s tenure in the Senate overlapped with Hagel’s, the two men were not especially close, Schumer admitted. He did say that there’s an “obligation” to sit down with Hagel and discuss their issues.
“I have some questions about Chuck Hagel, on the one hand,” Schumer said. “On the other hand he’s a veteran, he’s a decorated Vietnam veteran. And he’s a colleague, I served with him, I wasn’t that close to him but he served with me in the Senate when I did for a while. So I owe both both my constituents, my country and Chuck Hagel the obligation to sit down and ask him about the things I’m concerned about and I will do that before I determine how I’m going to vote.”
Asked if those concerns had anything to do with Hagel’s comments on what he has called Washington’s “Jewish lobby” and a critical stance on Israel’s relationship with Hezbollah, Schumer declined to say.
“I want to hear what he has to say before I make a determination,” he said.
Schumer, according to Politico, has said privately that it would be “very hard” for him to support Hagel’s nomination to succeed Leon Panetta at the Pentagon.
Oct 10th - 4:00 pm
While in Syracuse today to endorse former Rep. Dan Maffei’s effort to re-take his seat from the woman who defeated him in 2010, GOP Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, US Sen. Chuck Schumer favorably compared his fellow Democrat to the Republican who preceded him in office.
“I never had a better partner than Dan Maffei,” Schumer said. “He worked so hard. “He reminded me frankly of Jim Walsh in terms of the dedication, hard work and success that he had in bringing dollars here. And we miss him. We need him. There is a void right now and we are not getting the same thing.”
“When you are a Congressmember and you say ‘I’m for cutting everything’, you can’t bring back dollars, you can’t bring back programs you can’t bring back infrastructure to your region. And that is just what his opponent is done. So I believe that for the good of Central New York, Dan Maffei is the guy.”
Walsh, who retired at the end of 2009, was a moderate Republican who represented the district (now NY-24, previously known in its pre-redistricting days as NY-25) for two decades. Some might take issue with my characterization of Walsh as moderate, but I would argue that compared to the current crop of Tea Partiers – including Buerkle – that’s a more than apt description.
Moderate Republicans are an endangered species in D.C. these days. I’m not sure whether Schumer’s comparison of Maffei, who once worked for the most liberal member of the New York delegation – Rep. Charlie Rangel – is going to help him or hurt him (or maybe neither). But NY-24 is still pretty closely divided, enrollment-wise, with just a slight Republican edge, so maybe this was a smart strategy on the senior senator’s part.
Sep 7th - 4:25 pm
ICYMI: US Sen. Chuck Schumer defended VP Joe Biden during a CapTon interview last night, telling me he’s “exactly the right kind of candidate” to be President Obama’s No. 2, and warning Biden critic Rudy Giuliani to “be a little more respectful.”
The gaffe-ridden vice president’s security on the ticket has been the subject of considerable speculation for months, with some – including many Republicans perhaps engaged in a little mischief-making – suggesting Biden should be replaced by US Secretary Hillary Clinton.
And then last month, the former NYC Mayor, who was the target of Biden’s infamous “a noun, a verb and 9/11″ line during the 2008 campaign, went on national TV and questioned the vice president’s intelligence, saying:
“I think the vice president of the United States has become a laugh line on late night television. I mean, I’ve never seen a vice president that has made as many mistakes, said as many stupid things. … There’s a real fear if, God forbid, he ever had to be entrusted with the presidency, whether he really has the mental capacity to handle it.”
“I mean, this guy just isn’t bright. He’s never been bright. He isn’t bright. People think, ‘Well, he just talks a little too much.’ Actually, he’s just not very smart.”
I asked Schumer about Giuliani’s attack on Biden when the senior senator sat down with me in our skybox at the Time Warner Cable Arena last night before the president’s speech, and also inquired what the vice president brings to the table. He responded:
“A focus on average folks. He knows how to talk to them. He’s going to have far more effect in Toledo and Milwaukee and Columbus and Pittsburgh than he is here in Charlotte, and that’s how it ought to be.”
“Also the kind of voters he appeals to – white, working-class, many Catholic voters, not college educated – are just the voters Mitt Romney must have to try to pull the election away from Barack Obama. So, he’s exactly the right kind of candidate.”
“…You know, Rudy Giuliani ought to be a little more respectful. (Biden) is a very bright man. He’s every bit as smart as Rudy Giuliani. I know them both. They’re both very smart.”
(H/T to Colin Campbell who scooped me on my own scooplette. In my defense, I was somewhere in the air between Charlotte and Albany at the time).
Aug 16th - 11:41 am
Several hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s highly anticipated and first-of-its-kind Yogurt Summit concluded, Sen. Chuck Schumer sent out a press release calling on New York dairy farmers to “lead the charge” in supporting his legislation that will provide those who wish to expand their operations to meet the demand fueled by the Greek yogurt boom with the financial tools they need to do so.
The senior senator’s plan, called - what else? – the Dairy Augmentation for Increased Retail in Yogurt products Act, (or DAIRY, for short – not sure where that final “p” went). It allow farmers who purchase cows that are already in production to write off the animals as a capital expense, lowering their overall tax burden.
Schumer’s bill would also establish federal savings accounts targeted to farmers to help them save and grow during both booms and lulls in business. The accounts would be structured to reward savings during periods when business is strong and defer taxes on those savings until farmers must withdraw funds to cover new expenses or manage cash flow.
“The bottom line is that in order to meet the growing demand for their product as a result of this welcome Greek yogurt boom, our dairy farmers will need a helping hand to expand their herds in a timely and cost-effective way,” Schumer said.
“And my legislation, the DAIRY Act, will enable them to do just that by treating new livestock the same way that we already treat heavy equipment, when it comes to tax incentives. It is a solution that goes to the heart of the problem, and we need strong support from the whole dairy community to create the momentum to get it done.”
“The DAIRY Act will give the New York dairy community the boost it needs to ride the Greek yogurt wave…After years of struggle caused by the recession, I want to make sure as much of that milk as possible comes from New York and that our state’s dairy farmers don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity to grow their businesses.”
Then, in keeping with the detail-oriented (dare I say obsessive?) nature of the storied Schumer press operation, there’s a detailed breakdown of how many cows are located in each region of the state and how many more pounds of milk they must produce annually in order to keep pace with the projected 15 percent increase necessary to meet the needs of the ballooning yogurt industry.
According to Schumer, between the Fage, Alpina, Chobani, and new Pepsi Muller Quaker yogurt product plants, New York farmers will have to produce 1,879,860,000 additional pounds of milk each year to keep up with demand.
Now, Schumer is a consummate press hound, and so it’s not at all surprising for him to try to piggyback on the news of the day.
But his release raised my eyebrows a tad because it sort of seemed like he was trying to steal Cuomo’s thunder a bit – especially since the take away from yesterday’s summit was the administration’s proposal to ease the environmental regulation regarding manure disposal to encourage farmers to expand the size of their herd, which is in part the focus of Schumer’s plan.
This comes almost one week after Cuomo elbowed in on an issue Schumer was focused on: Trying to keep the Bills in Buffalo.
On Aug. 8, Schumer was holding a press conference in Buffalo pushing a plan that would alter the NFL’s loan program in order to receive up to $25 million earmarked for renovations at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Hours later, Cuomo announced he had retained the services of “nationally-recognized sports expert” Irwin Rajj to advise him on how to prevent the popular football team from departing the Queen City.
So, maybe this was a case of Schumer returning the favor? Once upon a time, he was mulling a run for governor, (he would have crowded out then-AG Eliot Spitzer), but decided instead to remain in the Senate to become one of the chamber’s most powerful and prominent leaders.
Aug 8th - 5:16 pm
On the same day that Sen. Chuck Schumer announced a plan that he says will keep the Buffalo Bills playing in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that a “nationally-recognized sports expert” is advising the state on how to keep the sports franchise in western New York.
“New York State is committed to doing all we can to keep the Bills a part of the Buffalo community, while also protecting taxpayer dollars and seeing that the team can thrive in Western New York for years to come,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Irwin Raij has years of experience working together with sports franchise owners, local communities, and government in sports development projects, and he will be a valuable addition to the state’s efforts to keep the Bills right here in New York.”
Among Irwin Raij’s credentials:
- Represented Guggenheim Baseball Management in the recent acquisition of the LA Dodgers
- Appointed by the MLB commissioner to serve on a three-person panel to determine whether a new stadium for the Oakland A’s is feasible
- Represented Major League Baseball in the re-location of the Montreal Expos, while also working with the Miami Dolphins in helping them renovate Sun Life Stadium.
There’s been a creeping concern in Buffalo that the team, which has played several games across the lake in Toronto since 2008, will leave its Orchard Park stadium for a different community altogether.
To that end, Schumer was in western New York today pushing a plan that would alter the NFL’s loan program in order to receive up to $25 million earmarked for renovations at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
So do we have a case here of good team work, or as Liz suggested in the morning memo, another case of the statewide elected officials being a team of rivals?