Long Way Off

Budget Roadblocks, Tempers Flare, Special Elections

Good morning from Washington, D.C. Lawmakers have over a month until the first set of government funding bills expire on January 19th and man, oh man, they still have a very long way to go. To add to the urgency, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has said he plans on releasing members for Christmas recess on December 15th, regardless of where negotiations stand on a permanent spending fix. The two sides have yet to come to an agreement on a topline spending number and until they do, lawmakers cannot begin writing the actual spending bills that will be negotiated. The biggest roadblock has been the House GOP, and more specifically, the Freedom Caucus, who are opposed to the spending totals agreed to over the summer in the debt limit deal. That deal, agreed to by then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the White House, capped discretionary spending at $1.59 trillion with an additional $69 billion included for non-defense spending. 

If Congress fails to come to an agreement, Speaker Johnson has signaled he will move forward with a full-year continuing resolution (CR), keeping spending levels flat from the previous fiscal year.

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is vehemently opposed to that plan, saying in a speech from the Senate floor, “A date-change, full-year CR as proposed by House Speaker Johnson, would be unprecedented and reckless. The Speaker’s proposal would lock in outdated spending plans and devastating across-the-board cuts while locking all of us out of any kind of thoughtful decision-making process for our nation’s future, all of which should be unacceptable to everyone here.” A full-year CR would keep defense spending at 3%, amounting to a $26 billion cut when compared to the totals agreed to in the debt limit deal. Non-defense, discretionary spending would see even deeper cuts under a CR, including the $69 billion previously allocated for non-defense spending. 

In the Senate, Democrats moved forward with an emergency spending bill to provide $110.5 billion in security assistance for Israel and Ukraine. The bill ultimately failed along party lines, 49-51, with Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), voting against the measure over his concerns with Israel’s military strategy in Gaza. Senate Republicans have remained steadfast in their demands that any foreign aid package be tied to a deal to strengthen security on the Southern border.

After the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took to the floor to offer, “Tonight is a sad night in the history of the Senate and in our country. Republicans just blocked a very much needed proposal to send funding for Ukraine, funding for Israel, humanitarian aid for innocent civilians in Gaza and funding for the Indo-Pacific.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been a supporter of providing Israel and Ukraine with assistance but said, “Now is the time to pay attention to our border in addition to these other important international concerns” and that his conference would continue to vote down any foreign aid package until there are “meaningful changes to the border.” President Biden has said he is prepared to “make significant compromises on the border” in exchange for the funding package, but giving away too much could cause progressive Democrats in the House and Senate to get cold feet.

“Tonight is a sad night in the history of the Senate and in our country. Republicans just blocked a very much needed proposal to send funding for Ukraine, funding for Israel, humanitarian aid for innocent civilians in Gaza and funding for the Indo-Pacific.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

Tempers flared among Senators in a classified briefing on Ukraine last week, with Senate Republicans frustrated that their concerns about the border are not being taken seriously by their Democratic colleagues. Senator Schumer accused Republicans of being disrespectful to the generals providing the briefing and said, “It was immediately hijacked by Leader McConnell. The first question instead of asking our panelists, he called on Sen. Lankford to give a five-minute talk about the negotiations on border.” Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) offered his view following the briefing saying, “We want to help Ukraine and Israel, but we have got to have the Democrats recognize that the trade here, the deal is we stop the open border.”

Former Speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who was ousted as Speaker less than a year into his tenure, announced he will be stepping down from Congress at the end of the year. McCarthy joins the more than 30 House members who are not seeking re-election in 2024 and his early departure will leave House Republicans with an even slimmer majority until his seat can be filled. Democrats are hoping that the dysfunction and in-fighting within the House GOP will help them convince voters that they belong back in the majority. Control of the Lower Chamber will likely be decided in a handful of liberal states, but that does not mean it is an easy path for Democrats. 11 of the 18 House districts that President Biden won but are held by Republicans are in New York and California and Democrats only need to net 5 seats to retake control of the House. However, Republicans have stepped up their fundraising operation in both states and are looking at not only maintaining their majority, but expanding on it. 

Speaker Mike Johnson recently made a fundraising swing in New York, reportedly raising $1 million from two Manhattan fundraisers alone. Johnson held events for members in swing districts facing tough reelection campaigns, including Rep. Mike Lawler. Lawler, who’s district encompasses the northern suburbs of New York City, has adopted a more moderate stance during his time in Congress and Democrats are hoping to tie him to some of the more conservative positions of Speaker Johnson. Mondaire Jones, the former Congressman challenging Lawler in 2024 said, “Mike Lawler today is having a fundraiser with the most extreme radical Speaker of the House in American history.” 

The Special Election in NY-03 to fill expelled Rep. George Santos’ seat, officially scheduled for Feb. 13th, could serve as a harbinger for November’s elections. The district, which encompasses parts of Queens and northern Nassau County, voted for President Biden by eight points in 2020 before turning red in 2022. Governor Kathy Hochul has taken a personal interest in the race, reportedly setting aside personal grudges to clear the way for her one-time rival, former Rep. Tom Suozzi, to secure the Democratic nomination.

Suozzi’s challenge to Hochul for the Democratic nomination for Governor in 2022 turned bitter, with Suozzi even taking shots at her family’s ethics, but nonetheless, he is considered by much of the Democrat Establishment (especially New York State and Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs) as the best candidate in the increasingly conservative district. In exchange for her blessing, Hochul allegedly demanded assurances on abortion and that Suozzi would not run ads critical of the party as he did in his gubernatorial campaign. Receiving said assurances, along with a personal apology from Suozzi for his attacks in 2022, Hochul provided her blessing. The Republicans have fielded more than a dozen candidates, but the current frontrunners are Mazi Pilip, an Ethiopian-born former member of the Israel Defense Forces, and retired NYPD detective Mike Sapraicone. 

In an Upstate swing district, NY-22, Rep. Brandon Williams (R-NY) has found himself in a public feud with two of his former staff members. After a video surfaced of Williams berating and threatening his former Chief of Staff, the freshman Congressman said the staffers were threatening to expose his 27-year old daughter’s OnlyFans account in retaliation for being terminated.

Williams said the two were “trying to exert some leverage over me and I just simply won’t allow that to happen.” His former Chief of Staff, Michael Gordon said, “the allegations Congressman Williams has levied against me are categorically false.” NY-22 is one of the top targets for Democrats and a number of candidates have lined up to challenge Rep. Williams including current State Senator John Mannion and DeWitt Town Councilor and Air Force Veteran Sarah Klee Hood. 

In NY-26 where Democratic Representative Brian Higgins is stepping down, State Senator Tim Kennedy picked up a major endorsement from the United Auto Workers, one of the Region’s strongest and most active labor unions. That endorsement, paired with the announcement from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz that he will not be running, solidifies Kennedy as the favorite to take over for Congressman Higgins. Once he formally steps down, the Governor will have 10 days to schedule a special election to fill out the remainder of Higgins’ term. 

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli published a report last week showing how the State’s tax collection has been negatively impacted by out-migration during the pandemic.

The report showed that people are still leaving New York at a higher rate than pre-pandemic levels and the largest group exiting the state are single people. DiNapoli warned, “As economic conditions change and both federal and State tax policy actions evolve, policy makers will need to monitor the movement of taxpayers to preserve the state’s largest revenue source and ensure vital services can continue to be provided.” In order to stem the flow of people leaving the state, specifically high income earners, the Governor has repeatedly vowed to not raise taxes, despite projected budget gaps for the next three fiscal years. 

Finally… good news, Rosie O’Grady’s LIVES! 

Other exciting restaurant news for the Capitol, Herbie’s Burgers is going into the Plaza.   

And, farewell to Denny Laine, founding member of the Moody Blues and Wings. Here is Mull of Kintyre in his honor.  

From all of us at OD&A

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Congrats OD&A!

We’re on the move!

Our lobbying team led by Managing Partner Jack O’Donnell is climbing the power list of New York State’s Top 50 Lobbyists in 2023. The firm is now #24 in the City & State NY annual rankings of government relations pros guiding the Empire State.

Biggest achievements:

OD&A is proud of helping our clients make change all over New York, from the new 340B reinvestment fund, major investments in upstate transit, a flagship designation and over $110 million in investment for the University at Buffalo, worker protections and prevailing wages on green energy investments, billions in procurement wins for New York companies, and leading New York City to establish a groundbreaking drone policy including a public-private partnership between the Mayor’s Office and Pixis Drones to celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop!

Key industries: Economic development, labor, energy, health care, transportation

Notable clients: North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, New York State Building Trades, AIDS Health Foundation, Trillium Health, Regional Transit System

Our Jack O’Donnell also collaborated with fellow D.C. lobbyist Winning Strategies Washington, which was named a top ‘Hired Gun’ on The Hill’s list of Top Lobbyists 2023.

Grant Loomis, Senior Vice President of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership joins our Alec Lewis “From the Lobby” to talk:

-WNY’s vital business relationship with Canada

-Energy and the benefits cliff, the top two issues the BNP is pushing in the new NY Legislative Session

Client in the News

University at Buffalo

NY Investing $4.6M in Diversity in Medicine. UB Program Called a 'Model for Other Institutions'

Struggling in his undergraduate studies, Sydney Pigott at one point felt like he wasn’t going to attend medical school. It seemed like a far-off dream.

But getting accepted into a long-standing post-baccalaureate program at OD&A client University at Buffalo brought the dream closer. [Read more.]

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Victory Party with OD&A

Alec Lewis, VP and Director of Campaigns at OD&A was proud to join our client, Emily Essi, as she celebrated her victory in the race for Onondaga County Clerk. They were also joined by other newly-elected Democrats, including OD&A client Maurice ‘Mo’ Brown who was elected to the Onondaga County Legislature after garnering more than 60% of the vote. Congratulations to all!

This Day in History

Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man on the moon, is seen here on the lunar surface in December 1972. (Image credit: NASA)

December 11, 1972: Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt became the last humans to walk on the Moon. Watch a video here.


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Why We’re All Still Watching ‘Love Actually’ 20 Years On

We can’t get enough of this holiday laugh-and-cry fest: It is “Love Actually.” [Read more.]