Chris Lee (NY-26)

19 May

The Buffalo News did a quick review of Lee’s first few months in office, and I have to agree with them that Lee has turned out not to be the Republican robot I thought he’d be. He has quite evidently voted and introduced legislation in a thoughtful way – not a way I might always agree with – but also not necessarily in a knee-jerk manner that I was most afraid of.

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. Even the people on my team are digging him:

In Washington, amid a Congress harshly divided along party lines, the new congressman’s approach has lent his early days in office a Mr. Lee-goes-to Washington quality.

For example, Democratic congressional staff members were surprised to see Lee at a meeting earlier this year with Gov. David A. Paterson, a Democrat, given that other GOP lawmakers had not always attended such gatherings.

In addition, Lee has worked hard to build a relationship with Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, faithfully attending meetings of her Upstate Caucus and serving as the strongest Republican voice for high-speed rail in upstate New York.

Lee, Slaughter and Higgins teamed up on a proposal to get the Government Accountability Office to study pilot training after the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 killed 50 people.

In addition, Lee and Higgins announced joint initiatives aimed at cutting the cost of applying for new documents that will be required for crossing the Canadian border starting June 1 and for opening a passport office in Western New York. In response, the State Department last week agreed to open a local passport office.

“Those good ideas that we announced were his ideas, not mine,” Higgins said. “But they were good ideas for Buffalo and Western New York, and that’s why I was there.”

Higgins acknowledged that he had no relationship with Reynolds. Not so with the new congressman.

“I see Chris Lee as a guy who is very serious. . . . I see great opportunities for he and I to work together to move Western New York forward,” Higgins said.

Like I said, I don’t have to agree with the guy all the time, but I can recognize that he’s actually thinking about stuff and ways to help the district.

10 Responses to “Chris Lee (NY-26)”

  1. Prodigal-Son May 19, 2009 at 8:56 pm #

    Pundit’s all growed up! (sniff & small tear)

  2. Adama D. Brown May 19, 2009 at 9:25 pm #

    I disagree. Yes, Lee has broken with his party on a couple of high-profile votes, but it speaks volumes that the ones he chose are the most recognizible like SCHIP, stuff that’s going to be valuable to him when he runs for reelection. Meanwhile, he voted against fair pay for women, against the economic recovery plan, against the President’s budget, and overall supported the Republican party line on all but a small handful of votes.

    The Buffalo News ignored the fact that he’s done really nothing to substantively address the economic problems that are first and foremost in our area. Renaming post offices and talking about passport offices doesn’t create jobs or make healthcare more affordable.

  3. Jim Ostrowski May 19, 2009 at 9:54 pm #

    No surprise to me. I listened to one of the debates and he sounded like a Rockefeller, big government style Republican. Jack Quinn Part 2.

  4. Adam K. May 19, 2009 at 10:35 pm #

    He gets, in NYS Public School terms, a 50*. from me.

    Just because he’s apparently much better than Tom Reynolds (although I think we still need more time to evaluate) doesn’t make him not a wingnut.

    I can think of 1 Democrat in Congress – Wasserman Schultz – that I wouldn’t vote for if she ran against Chris Lee – I’d leave it blank. High praise for a Republican coming from me.

  5. mike May 20, 2009 at 7:46 am #

    Lee has that great haircut too, plus he doesnt sweat as much as reynolds.

  6. hank May 20, 2009 at 8:17 am #

    You’ve gained an interesting insight Alan

    Just like every Democrat isn’t a frothing KOSsack, neither is every Republican or conservative a robot. Very tolerant opinion.

    Anyone who voted against a budget that spends trillions of dollars the government doesn’t have should be hailed as a hero.

    The Obama deficits and budget makes the big government big spending Republicans of the first half of the decade look like fiscal uberconservatives.

    Perhaps Lee is trying to bring back the genre of Congressmen that argued on bills during the week, but had no problem going out to dinner together at night or play golf on the weekends like they did 40 years ago. In this case, “Having a relationship”, even when they don’t agree, will go further to bring better government than “No relationship”.

  7. Adama D. Brown May 20, 2009 at 8:28 am #

    Hank, you’ve been listening to too much Hannity. If you totalled up the Obama budget using the same accounting rules the Bush administration used to hide their deficit spending, it would be considerably lower than most of the Bush budgets. Obama’s not really spending more, he’s just being honest about what’s being spent rather than hiding things like military spending off the books.

  8. Robert Harding May 20, 2009 at 1:33 pm #


    I wouldn’t ridicule the passport office issue. That is a big issue if you have been following it. It’s big enough that Congressman Brian Higgins and Lee are working on it together, so it’s definitely not a partisan, minor issue.

    When I worked at the nursery I was recently employed at, we received a lot of shipments from Canada. I remember working at Boston Market a few years ago and my manager was from Canada. Our relationship with Southern Ontario is key to Western New York’s success. Having a passport office here is important and Congressman Lee was on the right side of that issue.

    His vote on SCHIP was significant, but if he followed your rationale, he should have voted for Lilly Ledbetter, the budget, the stimulus package and other key measures. I don’t think SCHIP was about gaining political points. He gained a couple of points there, but not enough to make a difference next year. If he wants to say “I voted for SCHIP”, we can counter with “You voted against the stimulus package, the budget, etc.” It won’t be difficult to respond to that if he were to use SCHIP as proof of his independence.

    Aside from that, I have a problem with Lee being touted as “independent” much as I have the same problem with Eric Massa being referred to as independent. It is ridiculous to suggest that, just because they deviated from the party line on a few votes, those votes make them “independent.” It is absurd to me.

    I don’t think Lee is as conservative as his predecessor, who was one of the worst representatives you could ask for. I think Lee has done some good things, but I will continue to watch him and follow his every move.

  9. Adama D. Brown May 20, 2009 at 5:42 pm #

    Having a passport office is useful, I’m sure, but nowhere near being a vital fixture. There’s plenty of places to apply for a standard passport, and even for most people going to or from Canada the enhanced driver’s license is more than enough.

    That’s just my point though, he didn’t vote for Lilly Ledbetter, or the budget, or the stimulus, because none of those are as high-profile as SCHIP and stem cell research. If he were genuinely moderate, what would stop him from supporting just one of those things? Lilly Ledbetter didn’t exactly cost the government anything.

    The difference is how SCHIP and stem cell research play to the crowd. Nobody is going to get worked up about the “Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009,” or whether somebody voted for the budget. But saying “I helped get healthcare to more children” IS a big deal, and it’s something that gets more traction when a person runs on it.

    Lee may not be as bad as Reynolds, but in large part that’s because he’s been running for reelection since 15 minutes after he got sworn in. He knows he really only got elected by sheer blind luck, and he’s playing to the fact that the Republican domination of the area is slipping.

  10. Robert Harding May 20, 2009 at 7:26 pm #


    We can debate how vital the passport office is, but I would say it has some level of importance. Both Higgins and Lee (again, it’s not only Lee who has made this a key issue, but Higgins too) have advocated for a passport office mainly because the Buffalo-Niagara border crossing is one of the busiest border crossings.

    The stimulus package isn’t as high-profile as stem cells and SCHIP? That’s news to me. Every Republican was hammered by Democrats like you and me for voting against the stimulus package and they were hammered for weeks. While SCHIP and stem cell research are issues that have a high-profile, I don’t think anything has been as important as the stimulus package.

    You don’t think anyone will get worked up over the budget? No one gets worked up over “out-of-control spending?” The Republicans, after all, having been claiming that the Obama budget is loaded with spending.

    It will be tough for Lee to gain any political traction on things like stem cells and SCHIP considering other Republicans supported them as well. I don’t think Lee will take full advantage of those votes. Will he cite them as reasons why he can appeal to both sides? Sure. But what Lee has shown us is that he is more than willing to go along with the Republican talking points and those, as they stand right now, are all about cutting spending, tax cuts and small government.

    I would expect to hear more of that over the next 18 months. That’s what Lee campaigned on in 2008 and that won’t change in 2010. The SCHIP vote will be almost two years old at that point. It will be old news.

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