Buffalo News: “Higgins is playing small ball in the big leagues”

By Mike Madigan

The following are quotes from the Buffalo News’ Washington Bureau chief Jerry Zremski, who coincidentally is also the President of The National Press Club. The article is linked here.

Zremski offers a stinging criticisms of the Congressman, who has served for 10 years in the House of Representatives. He writes:

  • He’s introduced fewer bills than most of his peers, and the only ones he’s steered to passage assign new names to post offices and the new federal courthouse in Buffalo.
  • Some who think that being a member of Congress is first and foremost a federal government job, [think] Higgins is playing small ball in the big leagues.

Higgins lacks the national profile, stature in the Congress, and political capital that would be expected of someone with his seniority. Higgins is the ranking member of the Homeland Security subcommittee that oversees the NSA’s mass surveillance programs, yet has never appeared on a national news program.

“I could certainly polish myself up and get on those [television] programs, but you’ve got to be able to contribute something to what they’re looking for,” Higgins said.

Zremski appropriately notes that Higgins’ lacks the political clout of his peers:

  • Higgins’ low profile has not gone completely unnoticed, though. Roll Call named him to its “Obscure Caucus”.
  • Higgins’ name has appeared in Politico, a daily must-read for Washington insiders, only 60 times since the news site’s founding in 2007. Among House Democrats first elected the same year as Higgins, the median number of Politico appearances was 246.
  • Asked to comment on Higgins, Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the widely respected Rothenberg Political Report, said: “It’s been 10 years since I’ve even thought about him.”

There is considerable discontent with the Congressman’s lackluster performance. Many observers say that “he lacks the caliber of leadership that the region needs.”

“He should be taken to task for acting less like a congressman and more like a city councilman in Washington,” said James E. Campbell, a professor of political science at the University at Buffalo and a Republican.

In the Buffalo News’ opinion section, the editorial board delivers a scathing rebuke of the Congressman:

“One thing is for sure: Higgins is not the kind of national political figure that the late Rep. Jack Kemp, R-Hamburg, was, nor has he carved out a role in the House leadership like Republican Reps. Bill Paxon and Thomas M. Reynolds.”

The above assessment begs the question: Why is Higgins being re-elected every two years? The low expectations of the Buffalo-Niagara Region becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as we continue to accept poor results.

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2 comments

  1. Mr. Higgins continues to be re-elected because he is among his constituents’ few voices supporting the wishes of the majority of WNY residents, i.e. Outer Harbor development.

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    • You reference the Outer Harbor in you claim, though Higgins famously refused to meet with planners and preservationists (among them even Mayor Norquist of Milwaukee, founder of the Congress for New Urbanism), in his relentless pursuit to reconstruct an elevated highway on the outer habor — a $50 million mistake that will cost us a decade and tens of millions more to fix.

      I don’t think you are very familar with Higgins’ tenure.

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