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June 27, 2009 - 1:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Chris Lee, veterans administration.

The backlog of unprocessed disability claims at the Veterans Administration now exceeds one million and the pile grows daily.  Veterans are waiting months to have benefits administered.

Congressman Chris Lee is taking up the cause of veterans waiting for claims to be processed.

“The VA’s backlog of unfinished disability claims is clearly unacceptable and unsustainable. With the VA drowning in red tape, our veterans are forced to go to extreme lengths in order to make ends meet while waiting on benefits they have earned,” Lee said in a statement released this week. “Whether it’s hiring and training more processors or updating technological capabilities, the VA needs to have a detailed plan in place to tackle this problem and expedite its implementation.”

Full press release following the jump:

May 28, 2009 - 8:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Chris Lee.

Rep. Chris Lee is increasingly showing himself as a Republican of an independent mind.

While his party and conservative pundits step up partisan bashing of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, even calling her a racist, Lee told WBTA this morning that he supports her nomination.

LISTEN

UPDATE: Lee was in town to talk with local veterans.  Full press release about the visit after the jump.

May 25, 2009 - 9:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Chris Lee.

The Buffalo News reviewed the first few months of Rep. Chris Lee's term as a U.S. Congressman and Buffalo Pundit, blogger Alan Bedenko, who, shall we say, leans Democrat, says Lee actually is doing an OK job, even if Bedenko doesn't always agree on policy.

I was wrong about Lee. The guy really seems to care about his constituents, and he’s taken an interest in the issues that matter.

Lee is building bridges with his Democratic colleagues, especially those also representing Western New York Districts, according to the News.

May 19, 2009 - 11:54am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Chris Lee, Don Read, passports.

There are a couple of places in Genesee County where you can go to get a passport, such as the post office or the County Clerk's office, so Rep. Chris Lee's indefatigable push to get a regional passport office in Western New York seemed a little over done.

Yesterday, I e-mailed County Clerk Don Read and asked him to clarify the urgent need for such an office.

Read explained that normal processing through his office can take 4 to 6 weeks, and eight weeks during peak periods. There is a process for expedited processing, but these options are either inconvenient or expensive.

June 1, The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative takes effect and it will require passports or passport cards for people traveling to and from Canada.

Read said the change in travel requirements will catch more people by surprise as unexpected trips arrive.  A passport office in WNY will make urgent acquisitions of passports easier.

"Many people are preparing for this by obtaining one of the acceptable documents, but there will be many whose travel to Canada will not be anticipated or routine," Read said. "These are the cases where a Passport Agency in Western New York will be extremely valuable and will provide our area with the same type of service which already exists in other areas across the norther border and also the southern border.  The Niagara Frontier is one of the busiest access points to Canada."

Lee's and Rep. Brian Higgin's constant attention to this issue seems to have paid off. On Friday, Lee put out a press release stating that the State Department has agreed to open a passport agency office in the Buffalo-Niagrara Falls region.

In a joint statement, the lawmakers applauded the State Department’s decision, while cautioning that it was not yet official:“The State Department has informed us of its intention to open a passport office in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls region. This is great news for Western New Yorkers, who currently have to travel to New York City or Detroit to acquire a passport in short order, all while living just miles from one of the nation’s busiest border crossings. Of course, this is just the beginning of a process, but we are confident that at the end of the day, Western New Yorkers will have access to this one-stop shop for passports. In the meantime, we will continue to work with federal, state, and local officials to ensure the implementation of the next phase of WHTI goes as smoothly as possible for local residents and businesses.”

May 18, 2009 - 5:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in economy, Chris Lee.

Rep. Chris Lee (R-26) is asking the government to step in and help save dealerships -- or at least the jobs they represent -- that have been slated for closure by Chrysler and General Motors.

In a statement, Lee said " the rapid and potentially disorderly elimination of thousands" of dealerships could put 150,000 people out of work.

Lee is asking the Treasury Administration's Auto Task Force to instead implement a plan that would allow for "market forces " to consolidate dealerships.

According to Lee's statement, "More than 60 members of congress, both Republicans and Democrats from districts all over the country, signed on in support of the letter.
 

Full press release after the jump.

 

May 12, 2009 - 12:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Chris Lee, legislation, trade.

Rep. Chris Lee issued a statement today expressing support for bi-partisan legislation that supporters say will fix problems with currency exchange with China and help protect WNY jobs.

Lee called Chinese trade practices illegal.

The legislation is aimed at stopping Chinese manipulation of currency exchange, which may be leading to the yuan being undervalued by as much as 40 percent.

Full press release after the jump:

 

April 15, 2009 - 8:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Chris Lee, broadband, Time Warner Cable.

City Paper's Jeremy Moule caught up with Congressman Chris Lee at a press conference and asked an unrelated question: What is his position on Time Warner's plan to tier broadband pricing.

Here's what Moule wrote about Lee's response:

Representative Chris Lee says that the federal government should get involved with Time Warner's broadband rate change only as a last resort.

He's looking into Time Warner's proposal and is aware that there's broad concern over it. Public officials should make sure "consumers are protected and that they pay a fair rate," he said after an unrelated press conference this afternoon.

The company has agreed to hold a public session on the plan, which would implement tiered, usage-based rates. Ideally, it would be able to develop fair-rate plans, said Lee, Monroe County's lone Republican Congressional representative.

Lee had called the press conference to support his push for a passport office in Western New York.

March 25, 2009 - 4:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Business, taxes, Chris Lee.

Rep Chris Lee says he wants to help small businesses. His latest effort, announced in a press release today, is a tax break for start-up costs.  He co-sponsored the legislation with a Democratic congressman from Maryland.

Apparently, a small business can currently only write up $5,000 of its start up costs for tax purposes. Lee's proposal would bump the limit to $20,000.

That sounds good as far as it goes, but at a time when credit is tight for small business start-ups, is it really going to provide the needed stimulus for entrepreneurs? Just asking.

Click on "read more" to view the full press release.

March 13, 2009 - 11:43am
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, Chris Lee, legislation.

Press Release:

AMHERST – Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26) was joined by community leaders at the Amherst Main Library today to unveil major legislation to protect students from sexual abuse in schools.

Lee and others were spurred to act after a national investigation conducted by the Associated Press uncovered thousands of cases in which incidents of sexual misconduct by school employees were not reported to the public.

March 10, 2009 - 1:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Business, Chris Lee, unions.

From a Press Release:

WASHINGTON – Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26) today called for passage of legislation he has co-sponsored that protects workers’ rights and guarantees a secret ballot in workplace elections. The lawmaker commented on the same day legislation was offered in Congress creating a “card check” system that would effectively strip workers of their right to a secret ballot when determining whether to form a union.

“When an American citizen steps into the voting booth, they are protected by the right to a secret ballot. Elections in the workplace should be held to the same sacred standard,” Congressman Lee said. “Voices from across the political spectrum have opposed this ‘card check’ legislation for one simple reason: the secret ballot and workers’ rights should always be protected.”

Appearing yesterday on CNBC, Warren Buffett stated his opposition to “card check” legislation because the right to a secret ballot is “pretty important.” Also opposing “card check” is former Democratic presidential nominee Sen. George McGovern (D-SD), who told the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill last fall, “I believe in the secret ballot as a very important part of our democracy.”

Congressman Lee is an original co-sponsor of H.R. 1176, the Secret Ballot Protection Act of 2009, which protects the right of workers to have secret ballot elections when determining whether to form a union.

March 5, 2009 - 7:08am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Chris Lee, passenger rail.

Following the news that the prospects of funding for a high-speed passenger rail line between Albany and Buffalo seem good, I sent an e-mail to Congressman Chris Lee's office asking for a fuller statement about the project.

I asked specifically if Lee would work to ensure Batavia had a train station along the route.

Spokeswoman Andrea Bozek wrote back, "Chris is certainly reviewing Batavia's infrastructural capacity as part of this effort."

She also sent along this statement from Congressman Lee:

High-speed rail presents a great opportunity for advancing the long-term economic development of Western New York. Yesterday (ed. now day before yesterday), we had an excellent meeting between members of the upstate congressional delegation and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. We came to a consensus on the need to move this project forward with the goal to use the existing rail corridor and hit initial top speeds of 110 miles per hour. That will cut two hours off of current travel times. Transportation experts who have analyzed the plan believe the first segment of service can be open in two-to-three years, with its full opening in three-to-five years. The delegation will continue to closely work with the Secretary and New York state transportation officials as the planning turns to stops along the corridor.

February 25, 2009 - 7:38am
posted by Philip Anselmo in Le Roy, Chris Lee, LeRoy airport, grant.

The FAA's Aviaition Improvement Program has awarded $2.1 million in federal funding for the LeRoy Airport so that it may complete its runway extension project, Rep. Chris Lee announced today.

From the press release:

The airport intends to use the grant to complete its runway extension project, which will take roughly three months and will occur in two phases. The eastern end of the runway and parallel taxiway will be extended from 2,640 to 3,855 ft., the runway will be sealcoated, and the runway and taxiway will be restriped.

“Improving transportation links in Western New York creates jobs and promote economic growth. I am pleased to see that LeRoy Airport has been recognized for its potential to grow and become a more integral part of the community and the region,” Congressman Lee said.

Raymond S. Detor Jr., president of LeRoy Aviation Services, commented on the grant announcement: “We appreciate Congressman Lee’s support for our efforts to ensure LeRoy has a state-of-the-airport that creates local jobs and meets the needs of the region. Through this grant, our airport will be better able to accommodate the aircraft it was designed for and provide support for Rochester International Airport.”

AIP grants are awarded competitively based on strict eligibility requirements, including an obligation to maintain the airport in a safe and serviceable condition, mitigate hazards to airspace, and use revenue properly. Funds for the program are drawn largely from a trust fund supported by user fees and fuel taxes.

You can visit the airport's Web site for more information on the facility which "is a designated general aviation reliever airport for the The Greater Rochester International Airport."

February 9, 2009 - 1:05pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in congress, politics, Chris Lee, Republican.

From the Office of Rep. Chris Lee:

Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26) today appeared at the Rochester Federal Building to announce that he has sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) calling for action on bipartisan legislation to stop the automatic pay raise members of Congress are scheduled to receive next year. The lawmaker says foregoing the pay increase would help make Washington more accountable to Western New York taxpayers.

“After a month in Congress, I have seen firsthand the critical need for openness and accountability in Washington,” Congressman Lee said. “During these tough economic times, when workers are foregoing wage increases to keep their jobs, Congress should not grant itself a pay raise. Washington should do more with less, just as Western New Yorkers always have.”
 
On his first day in office, Congressman Lee became a co-sponsor of H.R. 156, the Stop the Congressional Pay Raise Act, which would block the pay raise Members of Congress are scheduled to automatically receive next year. H.R. 156, which is sponsored by Congressman Harry Mitchell (D-AZ), has gained more than 100 Republican and Democrat co-sponsors, and is endorsed by leading taxpayer and government watchdog groups. The legislation is currently pending in the House Administration and Oversight & Government Reform committees. (Click HERE to read statements from leading taxpayer and government watchdog groups on the Stop the Congressional Pay Raise Act.)

Congressman Lee added, “Before Congress, my experience was solely in the private sector. When tough times came, we fought to save jobs and did not accept pay raises. This is an opportunity for Washington to set a similar example for public officials in every level of government.”

Click here to download the letter Lee sent to House Speaker Pelosi.

February 4, 2009 - 11:07am
posted by Philip Anselmo in politics, perry, republicans, Chris Lee, Wyoming County.

From the office of Rep. Chris Lee:

In a speech today on the House floor, Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26) read a message from a small business owner in Wyoming County to demonstrate the need for action on a swift, effective, and fiscally responsible recovery plan that creates jobs in Western New York:

January 29, 2009 - 1:17pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in politics, Democrats, republicans, Chris Lee.

Congressman Chris Lee spoke yesterday against the $819 billion economic stimulus package that passed the House yesterday by a vote of 244-188—not a single Republican voted in favor of the measure, along with eleven Democrats who also disapproved. His office sent us this video of that speech.

From the press release issued by Lee's office:

Congressman Lee supports an economic stimulus plan that works swiftly and effectively while spending Western New Yorkers’ hard-earned tax dollars wisely. That’s why he voted this evening for an alternative measure that includes immediate tax relief for working families, help for America’s small businesses, assistance for the unemployed, stabilization of home values, and no tax increases to pay for spending. Congressman Lee helped craft this alternative measure as part of a working group of Republican lawmakers appointed by House leaders to present ideas to President Obama for inclusion in a bipartisan stimulus plan.

Since being sworn-in to office, Congressman Lee has been gathering information on the stimulus plan, evaluating dozens of proposals, and carefully considering the best ideas for creating jobs in Western New York. He has met with and solicited input from community leaders, economic experts, and constituents. He will discuss his views on the stimulus plan in a live telephone town hall meeting to be held this evening with residents in all seven counties of the 26th district.

Lee calls for more to be done to spur job growth and protect the unemployed. He calls for more tax cuts and less spending. And he claims that not enough is being done to provide tax relief for the middle class. These sound like great points: more jobs, better protection, more relief, fewer burdens—all good stuff.

Yet, confusingly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claims that the current bill does all of those things. Her Web site lists "tax cuts for American families" that would total $185 billion over the next 10 years. Such cuts would include immediate relief "to 95 percent of American workers through a refundable tax credit of up to $500 per worker ($1,000 per couple filing jointly).... These tax cuts would be distributed to millions of families by reducing tax withholding from workers’ paychecks."

Furthermore, she cites "business tax incentives to create jobs and spur investment" that would total $20 billion over the next ten years. "This would allow businesses to write off 90% of losses incurred in 2008 and 2009 against taxes assessed over the previous five years." What's more, "this would not be available to companies that have benefited under the TARP."

Of course, there is plenty else mentioned in Pelosi's breakdown that doesn't sound so rosy. If the situation is as dire as we're being told, should we be fronting a $6 billion broadband expansion? What about $650 million for television upgrades? Lee's office sent us this list of other "egregious spending" included in the bill:

• $1 billion for the follow-up to the 2010 Census.
• $600 million to buy new cars for government workers.
• $462 million for equipment, construction, and renovation of facilities at the Centers for Disease Control.
• $335 million for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
• $50 million in funding for the National Endowment of the Arts.
• $44 million for repairs to U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters.

I don't know if all of these count as instances of egregious spending—$50 million for the NEA is nothing compared with $650 to keep people watching television. Furthermore, there's so much money, ludicrous amounts of money, that this bill seeks to release in the name of modernization. Sincerely, at one point, in Pelosi's breakdown, a use given for some of the funds is literally: to "create new modernization ... programs." What!?

For the scrappy among you, you can visit the topics page on the economic stimulus put together by the New York Times. On it, there is a link to the full text of the bill.


Of course, area Democrats were quick to respond to Lee's no vote. They issued the following statement yesterday evening:

Democrats in the GLOW Counties (Genesee, Livingston, Orlean, and Wyoming) reacted this evening to Congressman Chris Lee's (NY 26) vote against the stimulus package that was approved tonight by the House of Representatives.

Phil Jones, the Livingston County Democratic Chair, stated, "We are extremely disappointed that Chris Lee chose to put party discipline over the needs of the people of the 26th District and the entire nation tonight by voting against the recovery plan. We face new layoff announcements in the thousands every day in this economy, but following his party's marching orders seems more important to Mr. Lee than trying to implement constructive solutions." 

Genesee County Democratic Chair Lorie Longhany noted the fact that President Obama and Democrats in Congress had consistently worked to gain Republican support for the stimulus bill, adding additional tax cuts and getting rid of some specific spending to which Republicans objected. "But the Republicans, and regrettably Congressman Lee, decided they would rather oppose all efforts and simply obstruct all good faith attempts to work with them. Things are tough; we don't have time for these games." 

Harold Bush, the Democratic Chair of Wyoming County, pointed out, "President Obama even went to Capitol Hill itself in an attempt to get at least some of the Republicans to work together with him on economic recovery.  It's a shame Chris Lee didn't put the interests of our district ahead of those of his party leadership."

Jeanne Crane, who is Chair of the Orleans County Democratic Committee, agreed. "We have always had representatives in this district who were more concerned with serving their party than serving us. It's a shame that hasn't changed."

January 29, 2009 - 8:49am
posted by Philip Anselmo in congress, politics, republicans, Chris Lee, stimulus.

The big news this morning, for sure, is the passage of the $819 billion stimulus package by the U.S. House of Representatives. We have yet to see what the Senate will do, but this thing is sure to climb through the ranks and get the presidential signature soon enough.

Throughout the day today, we'll take a look at some of the details of the package, both at the federal, the state and the local level. We will here what our representative in Congress, Chris Lee, has to say about the bill. We will get a response to Lee's vote against the package from some local Democrats. We will also look to get your opinion on this topic, so please keep an eye out for today's poll, which I hope to get up later this morning.

Let's start out with a broad look at what the stimulus package means for the nation. This is from the New York Times:

At first, it will trickle into paychecks in small, barely perceptible amounts: perhaps $12 or $13 a week for many American workers, in the form of lower tax withholding.

For the growing ranks of the unemployed, it will be more noticeable: benefit checks due to stop will keep coming, along with an extra $25 a week.

At the grocery store, a family of four on food stamps could find up to $79 more a month on their government-issued debit card.

And far bigger sums will appear, courtesy of Washington, on budget ledgers in state capitals nationwide: billions of dollars for health care, schools and public works.

Speaking of billions in health care and school aid, Sen. Chuck Schumer put out a release yesterday detailing the chunk of change due to come to upstate New York—$1.6 billion over the next two years. (Don't know about anyone else, but these numbers are always so staggering. If anyone knows of a good source that looks into how the government can come up, hocus pocus, with nearly a trillion dollars every time things start to look grim, please let me know.)

From Sen. Schumer:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will send nearly $1.6 billion over two years to Upstate New York counties in direct budget and education funding. Right now, the stimulus is expected to include $737 million in federal Medicaid relief for Upstate New York counties to help ease pressure on the overall budget, as well as a minimum of $860 million in education aid.

Western New York is due to see $70.4 million in budget relief for Medicaid and $175 million in school aid, according to Schumer's office. At the end of the release, we're told that the Senate will likely vote on the package next week in the hopes of getting the final draft to the president by President's Day, February 16.

We will get up part two of our look at the stimulus package later this morning. Please be sure to check back. In the meantime, you may want to check out the New York Times Web site, where they have put together an informative graphic that includes some audio commentary from some economists on how the nation handled past recessions.

January 22, 2009 - 1:46pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in congress, politics, republicans, Chris Lee.

Rep. Chris Lee read his first speech on the House floor last night to "urge Congress not to rubber stamp another $350 million in taxpayer funds for the struggling Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)," according to a statement released by his office this morning. TARP is the official name for the financial assistance package put together by the Fed last year to purchase the infamous "toxic assets" in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis—better known to all of us as: the bailout.

(A quick aside here: Does anyone else see the irony in the acronym? Sure, a tarp can be strung over some poles and shade the backyard crew for a summer barbecue. But isn't a tarp more commonly found in the cluttered garage thrown over the broken lawnmower and the 80 pounds of manure still waiting to fertilize the garden out back that hasn't pushed out a bud in half a dozen seasons? Am I pushing this metaphor too far?)

We've decided to include the full text of Lee's speech here for you to glean from what you will. I'll keep my opinion out of this one. You can also view a poorly synched video of Lee delivering the speech, if you're not in the mood to read right now.

“Taxpayer dollars must be spent with accountability and transparency. To date, the Troubled Asset Relief Program – commonly known as TARP – has failed to meet this common-sense standard of fiscal responsibility.

“TARP was established last fall as an emergency plan to prop up the ailing financial markets. But today, we have far more questions than answers.

“Taxpayers have already lost $64 billion on the first round of investments made through TARP.

“The new administration has asked this Congress to double down on TARP and rubber stamp another $350 billion without credible assurances of future results.

“With a $1.2 trillion deficit on the books and a nearly $1 trillion stimulus package looming, these are resources we cannot afford to spend without responsible oversight.

“Western New York’s economy is in a perilous state. What we need right now is swift, bipartisan action that creates jobs and spurs future growth, not another bloated Washington program that overpromises and underdelivers.

“I hope my colleagues will reject any attempt to rubber stamp the TARP program and ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, not wastefully.”

January 20, 2009 - 2:50pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in photos, Obama, Chris Lee, president, inauguration.

Andrea Bozek, from the Office of Rep. Chris Lee, sent us some photos from the congressman. It looks like Lee snapped these shots from the Capitol steps, above and behind the ceremony. Some pretty neat shots here, including President Barack Obama's swearing-in. Please note that the photos have been cropped to best fit our site. You can view the full size photos by visiting the link above.

Earlier today, Lee got us his statement following the inauguration.

“President Obama’s inaugural address set the right tone for the work that lies ahead in repairing our economy and restoring the public’s trust in their government. I am hopeful that today marks the beginning of an era of progress grounded in a commitment to bipartisan solutions."

January 20, 2009 - 1:23pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in Barack Obama, Announcements, politics, Chris Lee, president, Republican.

From the Office of U.S. Rep. Chris Lee (NY - 26):

Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26) today commented on Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th President of the United States:

“It is inspiring to see Americans from all walks of life come together to mark this historic moment for our country. Today is certainly much more than another orderly transfer of power.

“President Obama’s inaugural address set the right tone for the work that lies ahead in repairing our economy and restoring the public’s trust in their government. I am hopeful that today marks the beginning of an era of progress grounded in a commitment to bipartisan solutions.

“I know my constituents join me in congratulating our new president, vice president, and their families.”

January 15, 2009 - 10:49am
posted by Philip Anselmo in Announcements, congress, politics, Chris Lee, Republican.

From the Office of U.S. Rep. Chris Lee (NY-26):

Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26) issued the following statement after voting to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP):

“I am proud to support legislation that strengthens SCHIP’s ability to provide children living in poverty with access to affordable health insurance. This program has a solid track record of covering children in families who don’t have enough resources to keep pace with the rising costs of health care.

“Ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly is one of my highest priorities, which is why I am pleased that this measure does not add to the federal budget deficit. At the same time, I have concerns about whether this legislation does enough to focus coverage to help children most in need. We cannot tolerate any loopholes or abuses, especially now in the middle of an economic crisis, when the situation for many families is dire. I hope the legislative process will yield a better final product that addresses these concerns and ensures that SCHIP continues to serve the needs of low-income children first.

“Today’s vote is a victory for Western New York families, but it is only a first step in our efforts to reform America’s broken health care system.”

SCHIP is a bipartisan program first established in 1997 as a joint venture between the federal government and the states to provide low-cost health insurance for children living in poverty. The measure Congressman Lee supported, the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, reauthorizes the program through September 30, 2013. The bill passed the House by a final vote of 289-139; it now advances to the Senate.

To learn more about Congressman Lee and the 26th district, visit http://chrislee.house.gov.

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