Reed Boost Bipartisan Work, Mitrano Questions Why He Hasn’t Done More
Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a three-part debate between candidates for the New York State 23nd Congressional District.
The candidates for the 23nd Congressional District of New York were asked what they will do if elected to work toward finding middle ground as a growing partisan seems to be dividing the country and its people.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, said during his 10 years in office he has worked toward bringing the country together by being the co-chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of representatives from across the country equally divided between Democrats and Republicans committed to finding common ground on many of the issues facing the nation.
Reed said there are 50 representatives in the Problem Solvers Caucus who will vote as a block if 75% of its members reach a consensus on a piece of legislation.
“(The Problem Solvers Caucus) gives (us) a forum where you can trust each other,” he said. “Where you can have honest discussion about the issues of the day. It allows us to develop friendships and relationships based on trust.”
Reed said one of the pieces of legislation the Problem Solvers Caucus helped to get approved is the 290 Consensus Calendar, which is a law stating a bill that has 290 cosponsored members of the U.S. House of Representatives must be heard on the floor. Prior to the change, house leaders from both parties could bury legislation even if it was supported by many rank-and-file members.
“We’re not done,” Reed said about the work of the Problem Solvers Caucus. “This was a step in the right direction.”
However, the challenger in the Nov. 3 election, Tracy Mitrano, D-Penn Yan, questioned the importance of the work done by the Problems Solvers Caucus seeing that the example provided by Reed was just a procedural change and not a law that is helping millions of Americans.
“I’m sure the intentions of a caucus of problem solvers is a good one … but I’m afraid, however, the Problem Solvers Caucus has not produced any results,” Mitrano said. “The real test of Congress is can you help the American people and can you help the people in this district.”
Mitrano said it “absolutely breaks my heart” to see the partisan divide in the country and the inability for people to work together to produce results. She said the Problem Solvers Caucus should be tackling the difficult policies like affordable health care, immigration and education.
“The Problem Solvers Caucus is not addressing the most acute concerns people in this district and in this country have like health care, income gap inequality and education,” she said. “Where was the Problem Solvers Caucus to bring interest rates down on student loans so people aren’t barred from going to college or so they don’t graduate with crippling debt. Where was the Problems Solvers Caucus when it comes to the internet to the 30% of the people in the district who don’t have it, including children who fell off the educational map in March and have not recovered yet. Where is the Problem Solvers Caucus when it comes to the real central problems in people’s lives. These marginal things with or without the Problem Solvers Caucus is fine, but I’m afraid they’re not addressing the real needs of the people of this district.”
Reed said it’s inaccurate for Mitrano to call the 290 Consensus Calendar just a procedural change that doesn’t help anyone in the country and in the district. Reed said because of the 290 Consensus Calendar, Congress was able to pass a law that did away with a tax glitch that was hurting Gold Star Families for Peach, which is a United States-based organization founded in January 2005 by individuals who lost family members in the Iraq War, and are thus entitled to display a Gold Star.
“It was the 290 Consensus Calendar that got the legislation to the floor to pass so Gold Star Families would no longer be taxed on death benefits,” he said. “There are Gold Star Families in this district that benefited from that law.”
Mitrano also questioned the effectiveness of the Problem Solvers Caucus to assist in passing another COVID-19 stimulus bill to help the American people during the pandemic.
“(Reed) also voted against COVID relief. He voted against the Heroes Act,” she said. “If I were in that office I would be on the phone day and night working with Democrats and Republicans. We got to get help out to the people who need it.”
Reed countered Mitrano’s point by stating The Washington Post wrote an editorial hailing the work of the Problems Solvers Caucus, who got lawmakers back to the table to continue working on another stimulus package.
“I’ve been on the phone daily to say we are here to push the ball forward to get a package done,” Reed said. “It was (the Problem Solvers Caucus) efforts that got recognized.”