NY Delegation to the House Gains Control
The nine Republicans who will represent New York in the House of Representatives next year likely will play an important role helping Speaker John Boehner marginalize Tea Party dissidents.
"Leadership will be very happy to have New York Republicans there taking votes sometimes that people in other parts of the country would find it difficult to vote 'yes' on," said Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence.
And Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, said he sees "a lot of problem-solvers" in New York's GOP House delegation next year. Rep. Chris Gibson of Kinderhook, ranked by the nonpartisan National Journal as the House's most liberal Republican, wants to play a role developing bipartisan consensus.
"I was able to tie together the idea you could lower energy costs while protecting the environment," Gibson said. He hoped to sell that idea to members of his caucus. The Environmental Defense Fund ran a TV ad backing Gibson in this year's campaign.
"It was one of those moments when I felt understood," he said.
In the Senate, Democrats Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand will be in the minority next year but the chamber's new Republican majority will need some Democratic support to avoid filibusters and move legislation.
"We're going to try to find common ground, and that's something I have done in the past," Gillibrand said Wednesday on Comedy Central's "Colbert Report." She cited her work building bipartisan support for pending legislation that would refinance interest rates on student loans and help reduce sexual assaults on college campuses.
"I think what the election was really about is, people are angry," she said. "They are frustrated. They look at Washington and they know it's broken. And they want us to listen to them and do our job."
Schumer, who served in the Senate during its previous Republican majority, recalled that he still was "able to pass some of the pieces of legislation I'm proudest of." He cited a federal $2,500 tax break for college expenses as well as legislation he authored to make generic drugs more widely available.
Schumer spoke Thursday at a news conference announcing new federal emergency aid for rebuilding New York City hospitals after Superstorm Sandy. The announcement served as a reminder that Democrats in the New York congressional delegation will continue to have political leverage with the Obama administration.
New York's House delegation next year will have 17 or 18 Democrats, depending on the race in the Rochester-based 25th Congressional District, which is still too close to call. Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter is 528 votes ahead of Republican Mark Assini, with a recount set for Wednesday. House Republicans overall will have at least 244 seats, 26 more than the 218 needed for a majority, USA Today's latest count shows.
The three newest delegation members appear to fit the "Main Street Republican" image of the others:
• John Katko of the Syracuse suburb of Camillus is a former U.S. attorney.
• Elise Stefanik from the North Country/Adirondacks is a former staffer on President George W. Bush's domestic policy council who will be the youngest woman to serve in the House.
• Lee Zeldin from eastern Long Island is a state senator who served as legal adviser to Gibson when Gibson was an Army battalion commander.
"As a delegation, I think we're the kind of members that leadership can count on for good government," Collins said. "The far-right group that in some cases does look for perfect and will let perfect be the enemy of the good, their voice will be not quite as loud in the next Congress, and I think that's good for America."
Collins was among 28 House Republicans who joined with most Democrats in voting to raise the debt ceiling this year. Three of the other Republicans also were New Yorkers: Richard Hanna of Oneida County, Peter King of Long Island and Michael Grimm of Staten Island. Collins also was among the 87 Republicans who voted last year for reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
He predicted House GOP leaders will reward New York Republicans for their loyalty by giving them favorable committee assignments. Collins hopes for a seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which already has two New York Democrats: Eliot Engel of the Bronx and Paul Tonko of Amsterdam. If Collins gets that assignment, he would lose his seat on the Agriculture Committee, opening a seat there for one of the new New York Republicans to lobby for.
Katko said his priorities are the Judiciary Committee and Financial Services Committee. Both have Democratic members from New York.
Hanna, the former owner of a construction company, has told the GOP leadership he is interested in chairing the House Small Business Committee. "I certainly would like to do it but I don't hold a whole lot of hope," he said, citing his lack of seniority. He starts his third term in January.