When the smoke cleared at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in the wee hours of a Friday morning last July, 12 people were dead, 58 were injured and Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in New York, readying an assault of his own.
The campaign that Mr. Bloomberg and his “gun team” came up with in the hours and days after Aurora involved carpet-bombing Washington with millions from the mayor’s immense fortune and a media blitz that would be deployed following the next massacre.
“He was so frustrated by the lack of conversation around this issue … that he decided to force the conversation himself,” Howard Wolfson, deputy mayor for government affairs and communications, told Politicker.
Yesterday evening, socially conservative Democratic mayoral candidate Rev. Erick Salgado’s campaign sent out a press release announcing a breakfast in East Harlem this morning featuring “community leaders rallying support for Erick Salgado,” including Congressman Charlie Rangel. The event seemed an odd choice for the staunchly liberal veteran congressman and when we called his office to see whether he would indeed be attending they insisted he hadn’t heard of Mr. Salgado and that the breakfast wasn’t on his schedule. In spite of this, Mr. Salgado’s campaign insisted Mr. Rangel would actually be at their breakfast. The congressman called Politicker this morning to set the record straight and, according to him, it seems both his office and the Salgado campaign were partially correct.
“Edwin [Marcial], who happens to be–I understand now–the campaign manager of this Salgado, is an old El Barrio friend of mine. He came to see me a couple weeks ago and he wanted to have coffee with me and I don’t know how to say ‘no’ to an old-timer and I said, ‘I’d be glad to,’” Mr. Rangel explained. “I was surprised to see that there was a flier talking about this fellow Salgado and that Reverend Senator Díaz and I was going to be there and it went on talking about him. I called Marcial, I told him that I wasn’t thinking about meeting any candidate. I’ve never heard Erick Salgado and I would not be able to attend any breakfast in support of him.”
Let's Make a Deal
With the $85 billion in automatic so-called “sequester” budget cuts set to take affect tomorrow, the National Republican Congressional Committee has released a series of press releases blaming the situation on President Barack Obama’s fondness for “martian menus” and “robotic squirrels.” According to the NRCC, President Obama and House Democrats are more interested in funding wasteful programs and “scaring American families” than protecting the country from the impending, drastic cuts, so they highlighted a series of initiatives, including plans to develop food for astronauts and funding for a “Robosquirrel” used to research rattlesnake behavior. Several versions of the NRCC statement were released pairing President Barack Obama with different Democratic members of Congress.
“Most Americans will never get to order off the ‘Mars Menu’ that their taxpayer dollars are funding, but instead of cutting wasteful programs like that one, President Obama and Jim Himes are allowing cuts to important programs and services,” NRCC Communications Director Andrea Bozek said in the statement targeting Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes. “Rather than trying to scare Americans, Obama and Himes should agree to responsible cuts to wasteful Washington spending.”
Three members of New York City’s congressional delegation have signed on to a letter vowing not to back any White House bargain to avoid the $85 billion in automatic budget cuts known as the sequester that includes cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Both parties have been at an impasse over the cuts with Democrats favoring debt reduction through tax increases and Republicans wanting spending cuts. President Barack Obama has repeatedly expressed a desire to make a deal ahead of the March 1 deadline that includes both tax increases and proposals to reduce the costs of social programs. Now, Congressmen Jerry Nadler, Jose Serrano and Nydia Velazquez have all signed the pledge promising not to back any deal including the compromises being called for by the White House.
“Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are the great bedrocks of our middle class society and, together, constitute an essential safety net for millions of Americans,” Mr. Nadler said. “I will fight like hell against any deficit plan that cuts these programs or fails to address our immediate jobs problem. It is unconscionable for Republicans to ask those who can least afford it – seniors, kids, our most vulnerable families – to sacrifice even more and shoulder a disproportionate burden. I do not support anydeal that cuts Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits.”
O Say Can You Hear?
Jeff Kurzon, the managing partner of Manhattan law firm, says he’s ready to run for Congress and challenge Nydia Velázquez in the Democratic primary next year.
“Hi,” Mr. Kurzon says on his recently-launched campaign website. “My name is Jeff Kurzon. I am a 36 year old attorney and have lived in both ends of District 7: from Bushwick in Brooklyn to Little Italy in Manhattan. I am a proud American with diverse roots ranging from Armenian to English, Irish and Scottish descent. My mother, a former social worker, now runs a small publishing business. My father is a retired physician who served in the U.S. Navy. I am Catholic, however, I respect all forms of spirituality that strengthens us as humans and connects us to each other and God.”
Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert was the surprise guest this morning at the House Democratic retreat and his appearance included quips about his sister’s House bid in North Carolina and a “dramatic” duet of the Star Spangled Banner with Queens Congressman Joe Crowley. Sadly, Mr. Crowley’s office told us they don’t have video footage of the comedian and congressman performing, but Mr. Crowley did offer up a complimentary appraisal of his partner’s performance.
“All I can say is Stephen Colbert can be my back-up singer anytime,” he said.
Former New York Mayor Ed Koch has had an influence in Hollywood as well as the Big Apple. Before coming to City Hall, Mr. Koch spent eight years in the House of Representatives. One of his staffers was Nikki Finke, who went on to become one of the most influential and feared reporters in the entertainment industry and, according to Ms. Finke, her time working with the future mayor in Congress helped inspire her to become a journalist.
Earlier this week, Congressman Charlie Rangel made headlines when he blasted the lack of diversity in President Obama’s Cabinet. In a roundtable with reporters yesterday evening where he weighed in on a variety of topics, Mr. Rangel also criticized the Republican Party for not being diverse enough. Mr. Rangel brought up the issue while he discussed his belief the country needs to be more open to immigrants and posited there are many conservative opponents to immigration reform because the G.O.P. and its constituents are not sufficiently diverse.
“All you have to do is take a picture of Republicans and a picture of Democrats and it’s as though you’re talking about two different countries,” Mr. Rangel said.
Politicker asked the congressman for his take on the African-American members of the Republican Party.
In The House
Congressman Charlie Rangel sat down with a small group of reporters yesterday for a wide-ranging discussion at his office. One of the main topics was the brewing battle over the debt ceiling and Politicker asked the congressman for his take on the idea President Barack Obama can avoid a fight with congressional Republicans who won’t raise the debt cap by having the Treasury Department mint a $1 trillion coin.
“I’m working on the design, one for the president and one for me,” Mr. Rangel said with a smile.
We wondered whether that meant he wanted to see his portrait depicted on the coin.
“No, I want one of the coins,” the congressman responded as the assembled reporters laughed. “The president gets one, he puts it in the treasury. I get one, I keep it. Makes sense to me.”
Earlier in the conversation, Mr. Rangel criticized Republicans who have said they will not vote to raise the debt ceiling without spending cuts because he said they are solely focused on slashing “so-called entitlements” that are social programs for “vulnerable” portions of the population.
Now that he’s arrived on Capitol Hill, freshman Congressman Hakeem Jeffries has been appointed to the Budget Committee. The Budget Committee is chaired by Paul Ryan and, in an email to supporters announcing the appointment, his campaign sounded rather excited about the possibility for Mr. Jeffries to directly tangle with the former Republican vice presidential candidate.
“I have some important news. Congressman Jeffries was recently appointed to the powerful Budget Committee. This committee will again be chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan, and therefore be the battleground in the fight to preserve social security, Medicare and Medicaid,” the email said. “Congressman Jeffries will fight hard to save these programs.”