ITHACA, N.Y. — Last week, Rep. Reed spoke on the House floor against Democrats’ attempts to roll back Trump administration guidance allowing states to avoid some parts of the Affordable Care Act — he did, however, buck the President on a disaster relief bill. Meanwhile, the state Senate agreed to hand over Trump’s state tax returns to congressional committees. The Assembly continued weighing options to scale back religious exemptions on vaccinations as measles cases continue to rise.
Rep. Tom Reed (23rd Congressional District)
Fans of the Buffalo Bills might have noticed Rep. Tom Reed making some headlines last week, calling out the team’s move to charge upwards of $300 for tailgating in its New Era Field parking lot. Short of using his bully pulpit position as an elected official, there’s nothing legislatively that he can do to reverse the Bills’ decision.
Last week, House Democrats pushed for a bill to roll back controversial Trump administration guidance that allows states to avoid certain rules under the Affordable Care Act. Democrats assert that the administration’s rollbacks allow states to subvert protections for pre-existing conditions. Reed took to the House floor last week to state that he believes relaxing the rules is necessary in order to experiment and solve issues in the legislation.
“What is being proposed today potentially jeopardizes that protection [for pre-existing conditions],” Reed said on the House floor. “Because what you’re proposing today is to take away the abilities of the states to comply with the law of the land to protect those pre-existing conditions in a way that allows the states to drive health insurance premiums down.”
Enough with the politics. We stand with people with pre-existing conditions and want to lower healthcare costs. Why won’t politicians take “yes” for an answer? pic.twitter.com/vHoHbWA4fJ
— Tom Reed (@RepTomReed) May 9, 2019
He eventually voted against the bill, that passed, but stands little chance of making it through the Republican-held Senate.
The House also grappled with another disaster aid bill to send additional funding to areas hard hit by hurricanes and flooding like Puerto Rico, Nebraska, Texas, Florida and Georgia. President Trump encouraged Republicans to vote against the measure as the administration stands against sending more money to Puerto Rico. The bill did eventually pass the House with Reed and 33 other Republicans voting in favor.
Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (125th Assembly District)
The Assembly isn’t quite sure on how to proceed with a bill meant to combat the measles outbreak in New York State. The outbreak has mostly been concentrated in areas of Rockland County, home to a highly concentrated Orthodox Jewish population. That prompted Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz to propose a bill aimed at tightening religious exemption rules allowing children to forgo vaccinations. Despite discussing the issue privately at a conference last week, Democrats, including Assemblywoman Lifton are still weighing the issue.
“I am a strong supporter of laws protecting religious freedoms, but I also have heard from experts who have studied this issue in great depth and are very worried about what they see as unacceptably low rates of vaccination in some schools,” Lifton said in a statement to the Ithaca Voice. “New York State has over 400 cases of measles, which can have very serious complications, and here in Tompkins County we’ve had cases of pertussis, another very serious illness, apparently due to low vaccination rates. Needless to say, I’m taking this issue very seriously and studying the bill.”
The State Senate has indicated it may also move on similar legislation to curb or tighten religious exemptions.
Senator Tom O’Mara (58th Senate District)
The New York Senate passed a bill last week that would allow the state tax commissioner to release state tax returns to congressional oversight committees investigating President Trump. Republicans, including Senator O’Mara, voted against the move on the Senate floor. The bill is now waiting for action in the Assembly, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated he would be willing to sign it.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer & U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
The Senate proceeded with confirming Trump administration appointees last week. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand have voted against many of those appointees, but there were a few exceptions this week. Schumer voted in favor of all three of Trump’s picks to serve on the Export-Import bank board. Gillibrand voted for two of those same nominees.
Gillibrand missed a procedural vote last week. It’s her fourth missed vote since declaring her run for President, but that’s only about 4 percent of the votes in the Senate thus far this year.