Game On

Slightly Slanted Map, Budget Face-Off, New DC Deadlines

Good morning from Albany where New York State’s long and winding redistricting saga appears to have come to an end with the passage of new congressional boundaries. Supermajorities of Democrats in both chambers rejected a new plan from the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC), choosing instead to draw their own map. Democrats across the country rejoiced: seeing the decision by New York’s Democrats as a prelude to a full gerrymander and a partisan rejoinder to Republican maps as most recently in North Carolina.  Of course, such a course would have brought litigation similar to the lawsuit that disrupted those plans two years ago, and Democrats opted for a more cautious course.  The final map was based on the IRC map and each district was changed less than 2%.  Republicans were, dare we say, pleasantly surprised by the restraint.  State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt said, “There’s no doubt in my mind that Democrats feel that this map is better for Democrats, but I know I’ve spoken with many of my members in Congress who do think this is not a terrible map for Republicans.”

The biggest loser (in the IRC map and the final map) was freshman Republican Rep. Brandon Williams (NY-22) in Central New York who now finds himself running in a district that voted for President Biden by nearly 12 percentage points in 2020. Democrats seeking the nomination to run against Williams include DeWitt Town Councilor Klee Hood (Williams’s 2022 opponent) and State Senator John Mannion. As a result of the new district boundaries and regardless of the eventual Democratic candidate, the Cook Political Report now rates NY-22 as lean Democrat. 

Jack’s on the line with Joe Beamer from WBEN’s Hardline to talk:

—>NY Redistricting Saga

—>NY Congressional Races

—>Election Day 2024

—>NY Budget

The next biggest change was on Long Island in NY 3, where Democrat Tom Suozzi won a special election last month, flipping a Republican held seat. The changes to that district provide Suozzi with a much easier path to reelection in November as he seeks a full term of his own; the Cook Political Report moved it into the likely Democrat column.  NY-04 D’Esposito, NY-17 Lawler, and NY-19 Molinaro are all now rated Republican toss-up.  Game on.

Democrats in Albany floated legislation that would require any future legal challenges to the electoral map be filed in State Supreme Court in Albany County, Erie County, Westchester County, or Manhattan— all jurisdictions more favorable to Democrats than Steuben County where Republicans successfully challenged the maps in 2020. That bill is likely moot given the statement from NY GOP Chair Ed Cox who said, “there is no need for further litigation.” The newly-enacted map is expected to govern New York elections until 2032. 

Lawmakers are less than a month away from the State’s budget deadline on March 31st. Senate and Assembly One-House budget proposals are expected the week of March 11th which is when negotiations with Governor Kathy Hochul and the Executive Chamber will begin in earnest. One of the biggest areas of contention is expected to be the disconnect between Hochul and the Legislature on education funding.

Senator Shelley Mayer, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, is calling on her colleagues to oppose Hochul’s budget proposal to remove the “hold harmless” practice from school aid, a policy that prevents school districts from receiving less aid than the previous year. The New York State Parent Teacher Association is calling for a long-term study on the efficacy of Foundation Aid before any decisions on cuts are made. PTA President Kyle Belokopitsky said, “Our schools are doing so much more for our students each and every day… Now is not the time to be cutting the funding. Now is the time that we should be actually increasing the services and support that we give our students.” 

Hochul’s colleagues in the Legislature have also taken issue with her proposal to adjust the way the consumer price index is calculated, which would produce smaller increases than the current formula calls for. Hochul has cited declining enrollment in defense of her plan saying, “Schools that are not receiving the same amount they got last year have seen an average of 25% to 30% decline in population. They're basing the formulas on the population of what it was in 2008, does anybody think that makes sense?” 

Which issues will dominate the 2024 Legislative Sessions from Albany to D.C.?

Jack lays it out in our annual Legislative Preview.

Read it here.

In welcome budget news, Budget Director Blake Washington and top fiscal lawmakers held the annual economic & revenue consensus forecasting conference meeting, announcing receipts are $1.2 billion higher than estimated in the Executive Budget, giving lawmakers a little more breathing room as they work towards a final budget. 

In Washington, D.C., the House and Senate both passed a stopgap funding bill ahead of last Friday’s partial government shutdown deadline. The continuing resolution sets up two new deadlines, March 8th and March 22nd, for Congress to pass the twelve annual appropriations bills that fund the government. Speaker Mike Johnson, trying to head off frustration from his right flank over another short-term spending bill (the fourth of this fiscal year!) said, “The appropriations process is ugly. Democracy is ugly. This is the way it works every year – always has – except that we’ve instituted some new innovations. We broke the omnibus fever, right? That’s how Washington has been run for years. We’re trying to turn the aircraft carrier back to real budgeting and spending reform. This was an important thing to break it up into smaller pieces.” 

At the same time, leadership from both the Senate and House announced an agreement on six appropriations bills to get the process moving. The agreement encompasses funding for: 

  • The Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration

  • The Commerce and Justice Departments

  • Science, Energy and Water Development

  • The Interior Department

  • Military Construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs

  • The Transportation Department and Housing and Urban Development

In a rare joint statement from House Speaker Mike Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, the group said, "To give the House and Senate Appropriations Committees adequate time to execute on this deal in principle, including drafting, preparing report language, scoring and other technical matters, and to allow members 72 hours to review, a short-term continuing resolution to fund agencies through March 8 and the 22 will be necessary, and voted on by the House and Senate this week.”

That same cadre of lawmakers was summoned to the White House by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris last week for a meeting to hash out their differences on government funding, the border, and foreign aid. Senator Schumer, a veteran of these high-stakes meetings offered, “The meeting on Ukraine was one of the most intense I've ever encountered of my many meetings in the Oval Office.” Johnson was on a bit of an island, with Schumer, McConnell, Jeffries, Harris, and Biden all strongly supporting the bipartisan $95 billion foreign aid package that passed the Senate in February, but has been held up in the Republican-controlled House. Johnson has claimed it is a matter of priorities telling reporters, “The first priority of the country is our border and making sure it's secure.”

President Biden has offered a path forward, calling on Republicans in Congress to get behind the border deal that was negotiated between Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma and Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Biden traveled to the Southern Border this past week where he urged Republicans to “show a little spine” and added, “You know and I know it’s the toughest, most efficient, most effective border security bill this country’s ever seen. So instead of playing politics with the issue, why don’t we just get together and get it done?” 

That message will likely be reiterated in Biden’s State of the Union address, scheduled for 9pm ET on Thursday, March 7th. While Biden will use the speech to highlight his past accomplishments, it will also serve as a de facto campaign kickoff, with Biden making the case for another four years. Previews can be found here.  

In big news, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced last week he would be stepping down from his leadership position in November. McConnell has been a fixture in the Senate since 1985 when he was first elected, serving as the leader of Senate Republicans for an unprecedented 18 years. In a speech from the floor McConnell said, “As I have been thinking about when I would deliver some news to the Senate, I always imagined a moment when I had total clarity and peace about the sunset of my work. A moment when I am certain I have helped preserve the ideals I so strongly believe. It arrived today.” President Biden, a longtime Senate colleague of McConnell’s offered, “I’ve trusted him and we have a great relationship. We fight like hell. But he has never, never, never misrepresented anything.” 

The race to succeed McConnell is already underway, with the “three Johns” as the presumptive favorites. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) all serve in leadership in some capacity and have been loyal McConnell deputies for decades. Whether that association helps or hurts them in a leadership election remains to be seen.

“I’ve trusted him and we have a great relationship. We fight like hell. But he has never, never, never misrepresented anything.” 

President Biden on Leader McConnell

McConnell saw his power diminish in the Trump-era, with critics like Senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) becoming more vocal and more numerous. That wing of the party, and likely Trump himself, are not likely to cede Senate leadership to someone they feel will continue with the McConnell agenda. It is, however, a secret ballot vote, meaning the threat of public attacks from the former President may not carry as much weight. 

Republicans are in a strong position to retake the Senate due a favorable electoral map, as well as appearing to have learned some of the lessons from 2022’s disappointing cycle. Democrats are defending 22 seats, including 8 in “vulnerable” states, whereas no Republican incumbents are up for reelection in states won by President Biden. Among the most difficult races for Democrats will be reelecting Sherrod Brown in Ohio and John Tester in Montana while finding a candidate able to replace Senator Joe Manchin and compete in West Virginia has been, suffice it to say, difficult. Also working in Republicans favor is the discipline and lack of infighting within the party this election cycle compared to 2020 and 2022.

Republicans are in a strong position to retake the Senate due a favorable electoral map, as well as appearing to have learned some of the lessons from 2022’s disappointing cycle.

Previous Senate Republican primary elections have devolved into civil war between the right-wing and the Establishment, represented by McConnell. Senator Steve Daines, Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee has been working to recruit high-profile, and most importantly electable, candidates to run on the Republican ticket. His efforts were vindicated when the popular former Governor of Maryland agreed to run for the open Senate seat. Speaking about Hogan and Republican candidates more broadly, Daines said, “It’s finding candidates that can win both primaries and general elections.” 



This New York astronaut is blazing trails in more way than one.  

Megaphone icon

Jeannette Rankin, First Woman Elected to U.S. Congress

Jeannette Pickering Rankin took her seat in the U.S. Capitol in 1917 as a representative from Montana.

Will you be watching President Biden's State of the Union address Thursday at 9pm?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Results of the Last Poll

Should the NYS Legislature approve the new Congressional maps set by the Independent Redistricting Commission?

Megaphone icon

Employee Spotlight

Background: Michael Greco arrived at OD&A in 2021 with a wealth of experience successfully navigating the intricate landscape of local, city, and state campaigns, mostly in New York City, where he worked with The Advance Group, a political consulting firm. Additionally, Michael's invaluable service in the District Office of former Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) further solidified his knowledge of the inner workings of government with a primary focus on legislative matters and constituent affairs.

Specialty: Michael possesses an exceptional level of wisdom that surpasses his years, particularly in the realms of politics and policy. His expertise enables him to adeptly guide our clients through the many complexities of political campaigns. His understanding of the delicate balance between district and national interests in shaping legislative priorities further enhances his ability to propel their success.

Successes: Michael consistently and diligently delivers exceptional boots-on-the-ground support to our clients, going above and beyond, and putting in the extra effort behind the scenes to ensure their needs are met. His dedication and strong contribution to the Monday Morning Memo have played a pivotal role in the remarkable growth of our weekly newsletter.

Kudos: Leadership Buffalo Rising Leaders Class of 2024, Excalibur Award from the PRSA Buffalo Niagara for Monday Morning Memo

Extras: Michael is a graduate of St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in Buffalo and the University of Pittsburgh where he studied Political Science and American History. He was a member of the University of Pittsburgh D1 ACHA Men’s Hockey team.

Listen on your favorite platform!

This Day in History

Image: Courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum

March 4, 1933: In the midst of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated as the 32nd U.S. president, and later he led the country out of the Depression and to victory in World War II. In his inauguration speech, he coined the phrase, So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”


Worth a Read

Happiest Cities in America in 2024

Researchers have found that location plays a hand in how bright or gloomy our days are.