NY-22 Minute: Accessibility & Bipartisanship Key Features of Brindisi's Early Homestyle By Luke Perry
Two defining features of Rep. Brindisi’s “homestyle” emerged during his first month in Congress: accessibility and bipartisanship.
This is a notable departure from Republican House incumbents in Central New York last Congress. Democratic challengers and liberal grassroots organizations relentlessly criticized them for this and two of three, Claudia Tenney (NY-22) and John Faso (NY-19), lost their seats.
Varying attitudes toward townhalls reflect ongoing tension between vital democratic processes and officeholders seeking to control their public image in the digital age, where an unflattering moment can quickly go viral. It will be interesting to see if Brindisi’s approach becomes a new norm for NY-22.
Brindisi formed constituent advisory councils to provide input for his assignments on the House Agriculture Committee and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Brindisi said that he and his staff “will meet regularly” with these councils “to hear directly from those on the frontlines about the challenges they are facing and the work that needs to be done.”
Brindisi also began to tour local businesses, dubbed “Brindisi at Your Business.” Brindisi said the initiative was developed “because it’s important for me to hear straight from employers, employees, and business leaders about the work we need to do to help them grow and thrive.” This mirrors Brindisi’s predecessor, Claudia Tenney, who was active in this capacity.
Brindisi appears to be fostering a partnership with Rep. John Katko (R) from neighboring NY-24. Both represent parts of Oswego County and met prior to Brindisi taking office to discuss collaboration.
During the government shutdown, Katko and Brindisi held a joint press conference to advocate for paying TSA agents and both voted for bipartisan solutions to end the shutdown. Both now support a compromise on border security, including support for additional walling and citizenship for Dreamers.
Brindisi joined the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, and the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of 27 House Democrats who describe themselves as “fiscally responsible” and “pragmatic.” Brindisi is one of five Democratic co-chairs of the Blue Dog Coalition, serving as the “whip,” termed for ensuring coalition members support coalition priorities.
A focus on bipartisanship is necessary for Brindisi to be reelected in a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats by over 27,000. This helps explain working with Rep. Katko and selectively supporting President Trump.
Divided government provides Brindisi some political cover. The Democratic House will pass several bills knowing a Republican Senate will ignore them. This provides Brindisi, and other moderate Democrats, latitude in bucking the party, because their majority is big enough to absorb defectors and these bills are unlikely to become law.
At some point; however, there will be polarizing votes Brindisi will have to cast. This could involve House oversight of the presidency, particularly after the conclusion of the Mueller investigation.
The challenge, illustrated by Michael Arcuri’s 2010 vote against The Affordable Care Act, is how to navigate these situations in a way that maintains broad appeal to independents and Republicans without alienating the Democratic base.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College
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