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Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) at a town hall meeting at the Southside Community Center on Plain Street, March 11th, 2017.

September 1, 2020

The Pandemic Pushes Rep. Tom Reed’s Caucus to the Forefront — and the Campaign to the Background

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The Sun interviewed Tracy Mitrano J.D. ’95 as well. Read that story here.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) is campaigning by doing: As the pandemic rages on, he’s prioritizing his day job. As co-chair of a House bipartisan group, the crisis is top of mind, especially as stimulus package negotiations have stalled.

On the other side of the fence, Tracy Mitrano J.D. ’95, is in the home stretch of her second shot at Reed’s seat. Far outraised and the clear underdog, Mitrano has not hesitated to lambaste Reed, nor the president — who carried the 23rd District in 2016 by a nearly 15-point margin.

In a late August interview with The Sun, Reed shared his vision for New York’s 23rd District, which includes Tompkins County, and his plans to move the legislative machine in Congress. Central to this is his involvement with the House Problem Solvers Caucus, which he co-founded in 2017.

The caucus, a bipartisan group of 50 representatives, aims to forge common ground in legislation and forgo the otherwise “out of control” partisanship that has enveloped Washington, Reed and the group’s other co-founder, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) wrote at the time.

In Congress, 2020’s historic reckoning on racial injustice in America came with The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Reed noted that the Problem Solvers caucus is “neck deep” in current negotiations for the legislation — which passed the House, but was met with opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Reed voted against the bill. His two objections were the removal of qualified immunity and a proposed amendment to Title 18, Section 242 of the federal code that would lower the threshold required to convict law enforcement officers of misconduct.

Reed, however, said that he supports the other provisions in the bill.

“There’s a tremendous amount of agreement on things like going after bad actors in law enforcement with a database,” he said. “Also making sure that our law enforcement, from a carrot perspective, has the resources like body cameras.”

He listed representatives and senators he’d been collaborating with, including Vice Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.): “[She] was kind of indirectly involved, but obviously she’s busy with some other things right now,” he joked.

Reed, who stands in his support for President Donald Trump’s agenda — he co-chairs the president’s New York reelection committee — broke with the president once this summer on an issue that gained somewhat of a cult following: support for the United States Postal Service, which has faced billions in losses in the pandemic.

“[The President] wanted us to vote no,” Reed said, referencing the Delivering for America Act, which would bar the agency from making service changes and set standards for the processing of election mail. “I said look, I disagree. I think we should support them and send the message that we’re going to support the postal service through this election.”

And although Reed acknowledged that the bill is likely dead on arrival in the Senate, he’s “pretty confident” the COVID-19 stimulus package will include funds for the agency.

But with that second stimulus package, Reed said negotiations remain stalled, despite spending hours with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), in attempts to move the needle.

“The two sides aren’t even talking to each other, officially,” Reed said. “A lot of politics has overtaken where the two sides are at because the election is getting closer each and every day.”

And for reelection, Reed’s legislative activities are in the spotlight. He acknowledged the campaign has taken a “secondary role” because of the pandemic.

Federal Election Commission filings for the period ending June 30 show that Reed has far out-raised Mitrano this election cycle

Sabrina Xie / Sun Design Staff

Federal Election Commission filings for the period ending June 30 show that Reed has far out-raised Mitrano this election cycle

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rated New York’s 23rd Congressional District as “Solid Republican” for 2020. Thus far, Reed has outraised Mitrano this election cycle by a roughly three to one margin, according to Federal Election Commission filings for the period ending June 30. In 2018, Reed won the race against Mitrano by 9 points.

“Most of the focus has been to just get out and about and communicate with people on the crisis,” he said. “What do they need when it comes to PPE? What do they need when it comes to trying to get their businesses back? What do they need when it comes to technology?”

Reed hearkened back to the tenure of a former House Speaker: “I’m a big John Boehner fan, and he said, you know, you do the right thing, you do your job, the politics will follow the work.”

This piece is part of The Cornell Daily Sun’s Election 2020 Section. Read more of The Sun’s election coverage here. The section can be reached at elections2020@cornellsun.com