Interview 4: Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.) breaks down bipartisanship …

New York’s 22nd Congressional District Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D) learned how to become an effective legislator in the state assembly.

That experience helped him when he came to D.C. in 2019 and managed to get two standalone veterans-related bills signed into law. President Trump also signed into law several other measures that included Brindisi-sponsored bills as part of a larger package.

Episode #4: Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.)

The New York lawmaker is currently locked in a tough reelection fight with the former lawmaker he defeated to win his current seat – former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.)

But in our conversation, Brindisi and I focused on his work on behalf of the district and the daily grind of legislating instead of the politics of winning another term. (No mudslinging, etc.)

Some of the topics we discussed include the likelihood of a 5th COVID relief deal before Election Day, his work with the Problem Solvers Caucus, his stance on defunding the police, who he would support for Speaker (if Dems and Brindisi win on Nov. 3) and how he bridges differences with GOP lawmakers to create legislation on tough issues.

Varying optimism among Purple district lawmakers for COVID relief package before Election Day

With constituents hurting, in need of economic relief, moderate GOP and Democratic lawmakers have varying degrees of optimism that a fifth COVID relief package will be enacted before Election Day.

New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi is pressing leaders in both parties to return to the negotiating table.

Last week, amidst the wild swings of on/off negotiations between the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif), New York Dem Rep. Anthony Brindisi said he would “remain optimistic.”

We spoke the day after President Trump tweeted to “stop all negotiations until after the election.” (See below for the ups/downs of the COVID relief talks.)

“We all know how much (President Trump) loves the stock market and when he sees those numbers going down and he sees that reaction to his statement yesterday, I think he has got to take a pause for a second and say maybe my comment wasn’t such a good idea … we’ve got to get back to the negotiating table,” Brindisi told Article One.

Brindisi’s prediction proved prescient because a short-time later, President Trump pivoted from ending negotiations to offering a $1.8/1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

The White House’s new offer of $1.8 trillion for a relief deal moves closer to the House Democrats’ demand for $2.2 trillion. For weeks, President Trump would not budge from his $1.6 trillion top-line number.

But, the Senate Republicans are not quite there yet. As of this writing, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) intends to hold a vote on a smaller package next week – challenging Senate Democrats to filibuster the relief bill, as they did in September.

The numbers are still far apart, so why are lawmakers optimistic?

House and Senate office switchboards are lighting up: industries (including the airlines), individuals, local governments, all have been hard hit by the COVID crisis and lawmakers are hearing about it at home in the districts.

Arizona Rep. David Schweikert explained that some industries in his Phoenix/Scottsdale area district “are doing remarkably well but there’s a lot that are not: take a look at our hotels and our tourism, some of the restaurants that cater to that population have been just brutalized.”

“I’m hoping we can step up and stop this crazy impasse of everything or nothing and help them. …  I’m inherently really optimistic: I’m 58 (years old) my wife’s 58 (years old) and we have a five-year-old.”

Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.)

Moderates, especially lawmakers locked in tough re-election battles, are open to making a deal and getting relief back to the districts.

Shortly before heading back to her central Virginia district, Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger said “all options are on the table if it helps get support to the folks who need it. … I’m ever the optimist.”

Moderate GOP Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon, “wasn’t optimistic” that a deal would come together before Election Day but was insistent that without help, certain industries won’t come back.

Bacon said that his Omaha-based district is doing a little better than the rest of the country in terms of jobs lost/gained but the city still has “niche industries that are on their backs and they’re going to die.”

With the on again/off again developments (or lack of developments) in the negotiations, I went back to check-in with the moderates to make sure that they still believe a package could come together soon.

Rep. Brindisi has redoubled his efforts to get both sides to the negotiation table yet has been disturbed by the comments made by GOP and Democratic leaders, a source close to Brindisi told me.

Consider this: the four lawmakers I spoke with represent swing districts – these people are moderates who are running for reelection in very tight contests, according to the non-partisan Cook Political Report.

In order to get rehired by their constituents, these vulnerable members must answer the needs of their constituents. Leaders realize how important it is for these lawmakers to get rehired … re-elected by the voters.

Again – whether it will come together is a separate matter. But for lawmakers – GOP and Democratic – in swing districts – getting a win for a fifth COVID relief measure is very important … and leaders in both parties are feeling the pressure.

At this point, it is unclear what will happen. With little more than 20 days until Nov. 3, the clock is running out.

So how did we get here?

The ups and downs, on again/off again negotiations

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have taken the lead in negotiations to reach a fifth COVID related relief package.

In mid-September the negotiations ground to a standstill with Dems demanding a $3-4 trillion measure (which the House passed in May) while The White House called that number a non-starter. Senate Republicans favored a smaller $500 billion measure.

At that time, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus stepped in with an effort to shake things up – introducing a general framework of a deal supported by 25 Republican and 25 Democratic House members.

Spanberger, Brindisi and Bacon are all members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group formed to “inspire negotiators to return to the table.” They helped to craft and sell the “March to Common Ground: Bipartisan COVID Relief Framework” to the various member House caucuses, reaching out to senators as well.

Key lawmakers on both sides of the aisle approached the idea cautiously, as Spanberger explained during our interview.

However, as the Washington Post’s Erica Werner reported in the last week of September, Speaker Pelosi and Democratic leaders offered a “scaled down” HEROES Act with a $2.2 trillion price tag.

The White House responded with a $1.6 trillion package. Still, both sides engaged in daily discussions, continuing their negotiations even after the House passed the HEROES Act 2.0 on Oct. 1.

Ensuring Speaker Pelosi did not to send her rank-and-file home for the recess empty-handed, the House passed a $2.2 trillion in COVID related spending package that included money for stimulus checks, unemployment insurance, small business grants, local and state first responders, testing and tracing and schools.

Still, eighteen Democratic lawmakers, including Brindisi and Spanberger, opposed the package, calling it a partisan exercise.

On that same day, the White House revealed that President Trump had COVID-19.

As members departed Capitol Hill, both parties still believed a deal would be struck, according to various reporting and sources I spoke to who are familiar with the discussions.

Especially since House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) let members know they could be called back to D.C. on 24 hours notice, to vote on a negotiated relief package.

Several days later however, President Trump seemed to end the negotiations.

On Oct. 6th the President tweeted:

But soon, as Rep. Brindisi predicted, President Trump reconsidered his “stop negotiating until after the election,” statement.

By the end of the week, the White House upped the amount of the relief deal to $1.8 trillion. Some Democrats, including progressive Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), seemed willing, but Nancy Pelosi was still arguing for more.

In a conference call with her Democratic colleagues, Pelosi said xxx, according to a source on the call.

In the meantime, some Senate Republicans balked/are balking at a $1.8 trillion price tag and want to try to pass their own smaller package.

Sen GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says the Senate will try to vote on such a package next week. When McConnell tried to vote on a $500 billion COVID relief package last month, Senate Democrats refused to allow the chamber to vote on it.

The posturing by President Trump and Speaker Pelosi belie the reality: both parties need a win on COVID relief.

The challenge remains: IF the White House strikes a deal with Pelosi … will that deal pass in the Senate.

Covering Congress for as long as I have, anything can happen in 20 days, including the passage of a fifth COVID relief bill.

Interview 2: Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s CIA background helps in the House …

Quick flashback: remember back in 2018 when a young(ish) former CIA operative unseated a well-known incumbent GOP Rep in Virginia’s 7th District?

She is locked in a tough re-election fight against a seasoned GOP state assemblyman … but when I spoke with Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) we focused more on her first two years in the House, not so much on the political season in full bloom.

Episode #2 – Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.)

The day she won that seat, Rep. Spanberger set to work. She took on a crack team to man her district offices and got down to business helping her constituents navigate the federal bureaucracy – social security benefits, veterans benefits, IRS headaches … and many of those folks leave testimonials on her offical website. But in order to find those reviews, you have to click on a tab that reads “How Can I Help?”

In our wide ranging interview, Spanberger details how her office has helped constituents of the 7th District … even how one of those individuals with a particular challenge prompted the creation of legislation.

Among other items we discussed a future COVID-relief deal, rural broadband, bipartisanship, how her CIA career prepped her for operating in the House, who she may support for Speaker and her support for law enforcement.

Interview 1: Embattled Rep. Don Bacon, Nebraska Republican, gets the goods for his district …

Curtain raiser (curtain raised) on my conversation with Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.).

Podcast Episode #1 – Rep. Don Bacon talks with Article One

We spoke in late September shortly before the ebbs and flows and ebb of the negotiations between the White House and Speaker Nancy Pelosi on reaching a 5th COVID-related economic recovery package.

As of this writing, it appears Rep. Bacon’s outlook proved prescient.

Bacon touches on politics briefly in our chat but mostly we discussed his work as a lawmaker representing a deeply purple district in a deeply divided Congress.

The retired Air Force lieutenant colonel shares bits of his personal life, areas where he disagrees with President Trump and ways that legislating in Congress has helped the folks of the 2nd District in Nebraska.

Take a listen and let me know your thoughts.

*** Correction – I accidentally assigned Bacon to the 5th district … mea culpa … Bacon represents the SECOND District … many thanks for the heads up (she types sheepishly) ***

Interview 3: Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) talks legislating, Valley Fever, optimism and ethics violation

Five-term Arizona GOP lawmaker Rep. David Schweikert joined me for a straight-forward discussion on a number of matters …

Episode #3: Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.)

Schweikert, who represents Arizona’s 6th Congressional District, spoke with me in late September – days before the House recessed until Election Day (or sooner should a COVID relief deal come together before that time.)

The self-described “shy” lawmaker opened up about many issues including his greatest accomplishments on behalf of his Scottsdale-based district, the ability to adapt to the new COVID reality for his constituents … hint – it involves a “secret weapon with a golden rolodex,” the bipartisanship achieved in a very partisan Congress and the support he received from fellow lawmakers following a House ethics violation due to a campaign finance matter …

Schweikert also discussed his bill to extend telemedicine visits, technological advances in carbon capture, the upcoming election and Arizona’s experience with mail-in ballots.

One of my favorite quotes …

“I’m inherently really optimistic – I’m 58 (years old) my wife’s 58 (years old) and we have a five-year-old.”

Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.)

This was an informative and enlightening conversation … please take a listen and share your feedback.