Stefanik rallies around Fort Drum, Olympic bid, this month
Rep. Elise Stefanik has spent much of this month advocating to save Fort Drum from sequestration cuts. She also announced her support for a proposed New York Winter Olympic bid and skied during Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Winter Challenge.
Fort Drum could lose up to 16,000 military and civilian jobs if sequestration –– automatic congressional budget cuts –– remains in effect. The Republican from Willsboro said the loss of those jobs would have a severe effect on the New York economy and the military’s ability to protect the U.S.
“This has been a really important month for Fort Drum,” Stefanik said.
Once taking office, Stefanik quickly made Fort Drum a priority. She asked the entire New York congressional delegation to sign a letter outlining the importance of the north country’s military base, and they all signed on.
Stefanik said she discussed the statewide economic impact and the importance the post has for training the National Guard, when lobbying her colleagues.
“It’s very hard in Congress to get agreement on issues,” she said.
The letter was then delivered to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who will visit Fort Drum on Monday.
“I’m looking forward to welcoming Secretary Carter on Monday when he visits,” Stefanik said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for Fort Drum.”
Foreign policy was a major topic of discussion at the beginning of March, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before a joint session of Congress –– something the congresswoman called a historic occasion.
Stefanik said Netanyahu’s speech was important for the world to hear, and she shares his concerns about Iran possibly getting a nuclear weapon.
“I think it’s important when we consider U.S. foreign policy,” she said of the speech. “The United States and Israel have a special relationship.”
She was disappointed that President Barrack Obama’s administration did not meet with the prime minister while in Washington.
Stefanik mingled with state leaders on March 9 when she attended Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Adirondack Winter Challenge, an event meant to promote tourism throughout the Adirondacks. She was there with many other state officials and legislators, including many from downstate and local ones like state Sen. Betty Little and Assemblyman Dan Stec, both Republicans from Queensbury.
Stefanik, an avid skier, said she grew up going to Gore and Whiteface Mountain ski centers. She went to Whiteface this month with her father, Ken Stefanik.
Cuomo hands out lighthearted, and often tongue-and-cheek awards during each challenge, and this year Stefanik won the best alpine skier award, which made her father proud.
“I was really excited to be invited,” she said. “Sen. Little and I both sat at a table with Gov. Cuomo, and north country tourism is an issue we can agree on.”
Stefanik said the governor has done a good job raising awareness of north country tourism.
This month Stefanik also came out in support of a regional Winter Olympic bid proposal for New York. The bid proposal, in its early stages, centers around the two-time Olympic host Lake Placid and surrounding upstate cities.
The effort is being led by Essex County and local Lake Placid leaders, who are aiming for the 2026 Winter Olympics. The group, including Essex County Supervisor Randy Douglas, lobbied Stefanik this month, meeting in her Washington office to discuss the idea.
Stefanik said she will work to make sure it’s a serious bid.
“I think support will continue to grow,” she said. “I think it’s a unique way to market New York as a whole.”
“I’m open to it,” Cuomo said at the Adirondack Winter Challenge. “It’s a lot of work, but it would be a great opportunity.”
Stefanik also weighed in on a more controversial issue this month –– the resignation of Rep. Aaron Schock, a Republican from Illinois. He resigned following news reports questioning mileage reimbursements and gifts he received.
Stefanik said Schock, who became the center of a debate about internal ethics rules for lawmakers in Washington, did the right thing resigning. Congress should maintain the “highest degree of ethics,” she said.
The congresswoman decided at the beginning of this session –– before the news broke about Schock –– not to collect mileage reimbursements.
“I view it (driving) as part of the job,” she said.