Headline writers have been making hay with Congressman John Faso’s “deciding vote” on a special budget committee to advance reform of the Affordable Care Act in Congress. For the record, the vote was 19-17, with three “Freedom Caucus” Republicans siding with the Democrats. A vote the other way from Faso, a freshman Republican from Kinderhook, would have produced a tie. Tie votes lose.
But was Faso’s vote decisive? In fact, there were 18 other candidates for tie-vote honors or condemnation.
We don’t know for sure; Faso tells us there was no secret vote, only “just in order of committee placement,” which would have put him near the end of the line. As for “deciding,” he’s not saying. Let’s just say that making sausage (legislation), particularly in times of political turmoil, can be messy.
In these kinds of situations, committee chairs can be amenable to committee interests, regardless of the legislation. Say Congressman Jones lives in a safe district; he’ll take one for the party. His opposite number kissed 5,000 babies the last election; give him cover. Faso falls toward that end of the scale. Those three Freedom reps wouldn’t have dared vote to keep Obamacare.
I wasn’t in the room of course. Even the casual observer could have ascertained at least three factions at work within the committee: the majority Republicans, the “Freedom” minority, and the minority Democrats, the latter committed to ACA retention, which is how they voted.
Despite Faso’s strong showing last fall in what was considered a swing district, circumstances have evolved to make it even more of a tossup next time. As evidence, would-be Faso foes are beginning to emerge almost two years before the next election. Verily, his Kinderhook neighbors and various visitors are shaking fists in front of his district headquarters. Not a Friday has passed without some kind of rally outside his Kingston office.
But I think he has to stay the course, at least for the short term. Losing predominantly Democratic Ulster County, with 14,000 more enrollees than Republicans, by some 10,000 votes, Faso carried the rest of the district, “the north” hereabouts, by more than 25,000. The solid north was and probably still is Faso country, shifting tides notwithstanding.
Given all that, it would have been shocking if “deciding-vote Faso” had voted any other way.
A word to those who complain about paying 20 or 30 bucks at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast just to see their congressman — despair. Faso will be guest speaker at the annual county Republican dinner on April 7 at the Chateau in Kingston. Tickets are $100.
For local Republicans this could be a watershed. Should hordes show up in solidarity, all well and good. If not, uh-oh. For sure, pickets will be strategically placed at entrances.
Meanwhile, WHMT-TV out of Albany announced last week a Faso “town hall” on April 13 from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. It’s not the kind of face-to-fist town hall Faso has refused to do with constituents, but it’s close. Questions will be solicited from an audience of no more than 60 attendees — about average for a Faso Friday frolic in Kingston — seated on a first-call, first-seated basis.
Four more years?
Town of Ulster Supervisor Jim Quigley, 59, heretofore a sometimes-reluctant candidate, is pushing to extend the term of his office from two to four years. That suggests he plans to be around for awhile.
The usual arguments about two years versus four prevail. Two years carries accountability, what with supervisors facing voters every other year. Incumbents hate it. What you don’t get with frequent turnover is long-term planning or commitment to projects already under way, especially with the possibility of a hostile takeover. With four years, there’s stability, but at the risk of getting stuck with a clunker.
Quigley doesn’t have much patience for town politics. It’s not his strong suit. Witness his failed attempt to run his corporation counsel against an incumbent county legislator in 2015. Ouch.
But Quigley’s financial acumen has saved the town untold hundreds of thousands of dollars – dare we say millions? He seems to have mellowed with age and the occasional Caribbean cruise.
After four elections, the last with cross-endorsement, Republican Quigley can probably look forward to another term, even without Democratic help. Four forever will require voter approval in November.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Rochester Town Supervisor Carl Chipman — “Mr. Chips” to friends — has apparently found religion after five terms as town CEO. Chipman, a Republican, has announced he won’t seek re-election this year. Instead, after some health challenges last year, he’ll work to become a deacon in his church.
We wish Mr. Chips Godspeed, but there’s always politics involved where politicians tread. The ugly conflict last winter on the 3-2 Republican town board over filling a board vacancy may have been a factor in Chipman’s decision. One consequence was the resignation of town highway superintendent Wayne Kelder, after 29 years in office. “I lost the support of the town board, so that was that,” Republican Kelder, 75, said of his Dec. 4 resignation.
Adding salt to the wound, the board appointed Democratic councilman Tony Spano to fill the highway vacancy. The town board chose Democrat Bea Haugen DePuy to replace Spano.
Chipman will serve out his term, albeit amid turmoil not seen in two generations. He’ll be missed next year as the outspoken leader of the county supervisors’ association. Perhaps he can bestow blessings at future association monthly meetings.
Ham and eggs
Ran into Woodstock councilman-historian Richard Heppner and legislator-son Jonathan at the monthly Lake Hill fire company breakfast last Sunday, as the late legendary mountain-chit-chat country columnist Marian Umhey might have reported. As town historian, the elder Heppner is sure to appreciate the significance of a Democratic father-son team on the ballot next November. Historic? Could be. Suggested campaign slogan: Vote for Dad … and the Lad.
Lieutenant Gov. Kathy Hochul will carry the governor’s message to the Kingston area chamber’s monthly breakfast on April 19 at the Best Western Hotel. By then, the annual state budget should be a wrap, though details may not be known for months, if ever. The well-practiced Hochul will share the good news.
Friends of Kingston historian Ed Ford and “baby brother Bill” will celebrate their 99th and 94th birthdays, respectively, at the Senate House Garage on North Front Street at 7 p.m. on April 9, an invitation-only affair. Glad I got one.