NY-22 Minute: Brindisi Proposes First Law; Says He's a "Target" of A.O.C. By Luke Perry
Yesterday Representative Brindisi introduced his first piece of legislation, the Transparency for Cable Consumers Act, which seeks to provide more effective federal oversight of cable and internet providers. “I believe that the FCC should play a greater role in overseeing and regulating these cable behemoths,” Brindisi explained, “and when a company like Spectrum is fined by a state Public Service Commission, as is the case in New York, they should be required to report specific things to the feds,” including pricing and service practices.
Spectrum’s parent company, Charter Communications, was fined $2 million in New York for not meeting its broadband obligations. Brindisi claimed bringing more transparency to the market will “help increase competition and improve services for consumers across the country.”
Last week Brindisi cast two votes on gun policies passed by the House and largely supported by Democrats. Brindisi voted in favor of the Bipartisan Background Check Act of 2019, which required universal background checks for all gun purchases. Brindisi was one of 26 Democrats who supported a Republican amendment to this bill that required gun sellers to report attempted gun purchases by undocumented immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The latter generated criticism from liberal Democrats, who tend to be more critical of ICE, and House leadership, who expressed concern about Democrats enabling Republicans to pass “motions to recommit.” This legislative procedure is often used by the minority party to propose surprise amendments without much notice or debate.
In a closed door meeting, Speaker Pelosi stated that Democrats must be united in procedural votes. Moderate Democrats, including Brindisi, have enabled Republicans to pass two motions to recommit in as many months. Republicans prevented Democrats from passing any during the last seven years of GOP House control. Pelosi said vulnerable Democrats who displayed “courage” to vote against these motions would become a greater priority for party leadership and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Brindisi shrugged off the criticism. “I am a target now,” (6:50 mark) Brindisi said in reference to colleagues, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D, NY-14), who said she would put members like him on a list of Democrats who should face primary challenges. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez ascended to national prominence following her upset primary victory over Joseph Crowley.
Brindisi previously criticized items championed by Ocasio-Cortez, including Amazon not expanding downstate and the Green New Deal. “When I’m getting targeted by the left and the right,” Brindisi said, “I feel like I’m in a good place.”
Brindisi voted against The Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, which extends the background check period for federal investigators to 10 days. Current law permits a sale to be completed after 3 days, even if the background check is incomplete. The FBI cited this process in explaining why the mass shooter responsible for killing nine people in Charleston, South Carolina should never have been able to purchase a gun.
Brindisi opposed this bill due to a portion that prohibits firearm purchases by people “adjudicated” as having a mental illness. Brindisi suggested this would impact approximately 2 million veterans (8:14 mark) and improperly disqualify people adjudicated with sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, and other non-threatening conditions. Brindisi contended it was “not right to stigmatize people with mental illness.”
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), 43 million adults experience mental illness, about 1 in 5 Americans. The NIH recognizes many different types of mental disorders, including anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity, autism, bipolar, borderline personality, depression, disrupting mood dysregulation, eating, obsessive compulsive, post-traumatic stress, schizophrenia, and seasonal affective disorders.
Federal law already prohibits the selling of firearms or ammunition to anyone knowing, or having reasonable cause to believe, “has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.” “Mental defective” is legally defined as being a danger to yourself or someone else, or unable to manage one’s own affairs.
States vary in how they make this determination. The shooter responsible for killing 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007 was previously deemed mentally ill, in need of hospitalization, and an imminent danger to himself and others. He passed a state background check because the state of Virginia did not deem this “mentally defective.”
Brindisi said it was unlikely the Senate would take up either of the gun safety bills passed by the House, though the legislation could still be significant. Promoting gun safety was an advantageous position for Democrats in 2018 and may help them retake the Senate in 2020.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College
Read the NY-22 Minute for timely and comprehensive analysis NY-22 politics.