Archive (2009)

Another Chairman Visits

Eric Massa brought Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson to town. On Sunday, they met with some firefighters in Hornell. Yesterday, they visited Kennedy Valve, a manufacturing company in Elmira.

The Letter

Reader Elmer sends the text of the letter he received from Eric Massa explaining his healthcare vote. Text of the letter after the break:

Because you have previously been in touch about health issues, I am
writing to let you know why I voted "no" on the 2009 major health care
reform bill (H.R. 3962). Being accountable to you for my actions,
perhaps you will forgive a detailed response.

Since entering Congress on January 6, 2009, I have devoted more time and
thought to health care reform than any other issue. Health care has
been discussed this year in every one of my more than 60 town halls and
300 house parties. My staff and I read, digested and replied to over
15,000 letters, faxes, emails and phone calls, went over countless
briefs, white papers, studies and analyses, reflecting every possible
perspective and interest.

Not a single day went by without representatives of professional health
care providers, patients, specific disease groups, insurances companies,
unions, academic experts, think tank executives, medical students,
medical supplies sales people, hospital executives and a surprising
number of sick people, contacting us. Every single voice and concern was
carefully listened to.

Various draft bills were read and discussed with Congressional
colleagues and the House leadership. I continuously listened and read;
and tried my very best to absorb and understand all this information.

At the very beginning of this debate, I made clear my support for a
single-payer health system. This is rooted in experiences in the US
Navy and as a survivor of a deadly cancer. Achieving health care reform
is - and remains - a very high priority.

Having spent much of the last ten months studying, listening to
constituents and considering this, I could not support H.R. 3962, the
health reform bill presented to us by House leadership. This position
is best for my constituents and best for our country.

Now let me briefly explain my vote.

At the start of the debate earlier this year, many agreed the objectives
were to: make clinically needed health care available to all Americans;
to ensure health care is affordable for most individuals and families,
so more Americans could pay for their own coverage; bring total annual
health care expenditures into line with the rest of the developed world,
below 17.7% of gross domestic product; ensure consistently high quality
care; and reduce the total money spent on system waste, fraud
inefficiency and poor management.

Unfortunately, H.R. 3962 will not deliver these goals. Its primary
strategy is to achieve more and better care by the federal government's
regulation of the private insurance industry. But the so-called "Public
Option," which is supposed to compete for customers with private
providers, is too weak to be much of a competitor. Estimates are that
it will attract only six million customers; and this will make its risk
pool too small and too dominated by lower-income, less healthy
purchasers whom the private companies do not much want anyway. This
will ensure our national dependence on publically subsidized and
partially regulated private insurance, provided through employers, the
permanent and central element of U.S. health care for the indefinite
future. But if private insurance sold to employers was the answer, we
would not be in the mess we are.

Private insurance premium costs will continue to increase and more
people will lose access to care. Further, the individual mandate
forcing private citizens to buy mostly private care or face substantial
annual fines, may not be constitutional. And burdening private
businesses with the legal burden of providing health care insurance will
leave them at a serious competitive disadvantage with foreign companies
who face no such costs. Many firms will be fined and further harmed for
not providing care.

The bill, compared to the size of the problem, does little to truly
force out waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement; and this in turn
increases the money that must be raised either by new revenue streams or
reductions in existing health programs, to pay the new bills.

The bill leaves rural health care providers permanently disadvantaged.
And the expansion of Medicaid eligibility could lead to significant
pressures for higher New York state taxes and county real estate taxes.
The middle of an economic down-turn is a bad time for tax raises.

It does very little to increase the number of primary care or family
physicians who, along with advanced practice nurses and nurse
practitioners, are central to more prevention and wellness programs.
Overall, this bill makes our national health care system
administratively more cumbersome, bureaucratic and unnecessarily

So I entered the House of Representatives on Saturday, November 7th,
2009 and voted "no." This decision bitterly disappointed some of you.
It saddens me too, as the nation badly needs a system which can do a
better job of helping us to be healthier, at lower costs. Unfortunately,
the House bill's passage through the Senate and a subsequent conference
will almost certainly further weaken an already-flawed piece of

So what can I say to those who need health reform now?

Whether or not any act emerges from Congress, the health reform process
will go on; and I am sworn to work with all constituents to build a
better system. In the days ahead you will be hearing from me on
continuing steps to reform our nation's health care system.

We cannot give in to apathy or cynicism. That would be a betrayal to us
and our children.


Eric J.J. Massa

A Message to You, Rudy

The big question for the 29th in 2010 is whether Democrats will turn out. A high-visibility Senate race with a well-funded Democrat makes it more likely that there will be a good Democratic turnout. For that reason, Rudy's announcement that he's going to run for Gillibrand's seat is good news for Massa, since he'll give Democrats another reason to go to the polls.

From a media perspective, Massa and Gillibrand will have the only competitive Federal races in the area. There should be enough TV time to go around, though I'm sure Dan Maffei and Chris Lee will have token opponents who will justify a million bucks worth of "feel good" ads.

How Not To Ask for a Recount: NY-23

The 29th has seen a few close races, but neither Randy Kuhl nor Eric Massa poisoned the well the way Doug Hoffman just did. Citing an ACORN conspiracy, Hoffman revoked his concession, and now he's been fundraising on claims of "tampering" based on ordinary election-night screwups.

This is what happens when a candidate is looking for approval from forces outside the district. It may play well to Glen Beck's America to find ACORN messing with election totals. But the hundreds of election workers in NY-23, as well as their friends and family, probably don't like to be accused of being dishonest, scheming ACORN dupes.

Hoffman either doesn't care about the 2010 election, or he's too stupid to know the right way to ask for a recount. Either way, Bill Owens' chances for re-election keep improving every time he opens his mouth.

You Remember Marcellus, Don't You?

Drilling the Marcellus Shale, which may contain the largest supply of natural gas in North America, was the topic of a meeting last night in Corning. Eric Massa's "strongly worded letter" was part of the meeting. The concern is that extracting gas from Marcellus requires huge amounts of water and toxic chemicals.

Financial Disclosures

Tim Kolpien of the Reed campaign was kind enough to send over Tom Reed's financial disclosure report [pdf]. And, courtesy of Open Secrets, here's Eric Massa's [pdf].

Reed Press Call: All About the Benjamins

Tom Reed opened his press call this morning on the attack. He believes that the charges that Massa has made about the $1.18 million Restore New York grant received by his LLC (covered previously here, here, here and here), are "outright lies". Here's his opening statement about that:

Download mp3 (706KB)

Reed points to a Buffalo News story which uses Massa's financial disclosure form. I asked Reed if he was willing to release his form (since it's not publicly available -- Massa's is). His answer included a defense of how he made his money. Reed says that he's not a "silver spoon lawyer":

Download mp3 (630KB)

I will post both candidates' financial disclosure forms when I get them.

Finally, I asked Reed whether he was going to make any money from the Bath investment. He basically said that the investment is projected to make very little money. Some reporter on the call cracked "What kind of businessman are you?" -- and Reed walked back his comments a bit. It's about as funny as a press call gets, and is worth a listen:

Download mp3 (630KB)

There are some drop-outs in the audio -- sorry about that. I think it's something to do with my recording setup, but this is the first time it's happened.

Shared Sanity

Tom Reed and Eric Massa both agree that trying accused 9/11 plotters in New York is the right thing to do.

Reed is smart to reject the craven hysteria of some of his fellow party members, who are spinning crazy scenarios to avoid using courts that have already proven their ability to safely and fairly try terrorist suspects. Bruce Schneier put it well in a recent article:

By not overreacting, by not responding to movie-plot threats, and by not becoming defensive, we demonstrate the resilience of our society, in our laws, our culture, our freedoms. There is a difference between indomitability and arrogant "bring 'em on" rhetoric. There's a difference between accepting the inherent risk that comes with a free and open society, and hyping the threats.

We should treat terrorists like common criminals and give them all the benefits of true and open justice -- not merely because it demonstrates our indomitability, but because it makes us all safer. Once a society starts circumventing its own laws, the risks to its future stability are much greater than terrorism.

That whole piece is worth a read.

Massa in the D&C

The paper D&C led this morning's front page with a story on Massa's "no" vote on healthcare reform. The story covers a healthcare rally in Rochester where Dennis Kucinich was featured (via telephone).

Buffalo News Financial Roundup

In a piece headlined "Masa [sic] used campaign funds to pay himself and wife", Jeremy Zremski of the Buffalo News reports that Eric Massa took a $15,000 salary from his 2008 campaign. Massa's wife Beverly was also paid $18,000 as campaign treasurer.

Mrs. Massa's salary was a minor campaign issue last year. I doubt if Mr. Massa's salary has legs as an issue, but we'll see for sure next Fall.

Massa Op-Ed on Healthcare

Reader Elmer sends today's Corning Leader opinion page [pdf], which features Eric Massa's op-ed stating his reasons for voting against the House healthcare reform bill.

Massa Press Conference

Today's Massa press conference was about Afghanistan, but I asked a couple of healthcare-related questions.

First, Bob Recotta had a couple of questions on Afghanistan. Massa says that if our goal in Afghanistan is nation building, we should get out:

Download mp3 (1.6MB)

The next question was from reader Elmer, who wanted to know how Massa comprehends the complex healthcare legislation:

Download mp3 (720KB)

I also asked Massa to comment on the charge that this was an "insurance" vote, designed to appease conservatives in the district:

Download mp3 (900KB)