Three New Yorkers will wield power in Congress in 2023. What will that mean for the state?

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One is a Brooklyn native representing a deep-blue crescent of his home borough, from Bed-Stuy to Coney Island. Another is an upstater whose turf couldn't be more different: a giant red chunk of rural New York that reaches to the Canadian border and voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in 2020.

A third also hails from Brooklyn but must bridge both worlds and has made a point of visiting each of New York's 62 counties every year since he became a U.S. senator 24 years ago.

New York is losing a seat in Congress in January yet gaining in influence. In an unusual buildup of home-state clout, two New Yorkers from opposite parties — Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik and Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries — will each hold leadership roles in the House while Sen. Chuck Schumer will remain a dominant force in the Senate as its majority leader, the post he claimed two years ago after Democrats won control of that chamber.

Wielding a gavel or high rank in Congress can make a big difference to a House member or senator's state, both in terms of federal funds that flow home and enactment of policies beneficial to their constituents.

But the question for New York is whether its trio of leaders can secure those benefits in a politically split Congress and what they might be, given the partisan climate and likely disagreements over what is beneficial to their state. New Yorkers will have multiple hands on levers of power in Washington come January, but they may not be pulling in the same direction.

"The needs of the North Country are not the same as the needs of Manhattan and Brooklyn," said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group in Albany.

Jeffries is the latest of the three to climb the ranks. After 10 years in Congress and four as Democratic caucus chairman, the 52-year-old Brooklynite was chosen by his fellow House Democrats last month to succeed Nancy Pelosi as their leader. That puts him in line to become House speaker in a future term if Democrats win back the majority that Republicans seized in the November elections.

New York might have strengthened its political power in the new year with Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin a top contender to lead the Republican National Committee, but the Long Island lawmaker who was the Republican nominee for governor opted Wednesday not to run against party chairwoman Ronna McDaniel because, he said, her "re-election appears to already be pre-baked."

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., joined by Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., left, and Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., speaks to reporters just after they were elected by House Democrats to form the new leadership when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., steps aside in the new Congress under the Republican majority, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022.

What are the priorities for New York's leaders?

Stefanik, who is 38 and has been in Congress for eight years, moved up last year when Republicans elected her conference chairwoman after deposing Liz Cheney of Wyoming. Stefanik will keep that title next year but with a major distinction: it now carries the power of the majority party.

She has already laid out a litany of planned bills and inquiries Republicans will hold to scrutinize the Biden administration, the FBI and others. Several of those probes are directed at events and policies in her home state, an indication that having a New Yorker in congressional leadership can affect the state in ways beyond funding for local projects and favorable bill language.

Among her New York topics: whether the FBI shielded from punishment the owner of a limo that crashed near Schoharie in 2018 and killed 20 people. Another is federal flights to Westchester County Airport that have brought immigrant children for placement in the New York area.

Stefanik, who holds the fourth-ranking position among House Republicans, also has vowed to use her party's new oversight power to investigate COVID-19 deaths in New York nursing homes and whether a controversial 2020 order by the administration of then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo contributed to them.

She already had an eye on that inquiry and majority power in September as she excoriated the Cuomo administration during a congressional hearing.

"Help is on the way," she declared then, addressing a New Yorker whose father died from the coronavirus in a nursing home. "The subpoenas are coming. House Republicans are committed to standing up and demanding answers and justice for those families that our colleagues across the aisle in New York State and here have failed to do."

Republican conference chair Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., speaks with reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Nov. 3, 2021, in Washington.
Republican conference chair Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., speaks with reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Nov. 3, 2021, in Washington.

Jeffries will have limited power as minority-party leader and has been more cautious about laying out priorities before ascending to his new role in January. He also has sounded a more bipartisan note than Stefanik, talking repeatedly in a Nov. 29 conference call with reporters about searching for areas of agreement and consensus — a leadership style he attributed to his growing up in and representing a highly diverse population.

"Democrats are going to look for common ground with the other side of the aisle, whenever and wherever possible, but make sure that we oppose extremism on the other side of the aisle whenever necessary," Jeffries said.

More:The 2020 Census showed NY is more diverse. Congressional representation might not be.

New York's goals

How could New York's leaders in Congress help the state? For the business community, priorities include immigration reforms to help secure workers, and steering home funds from last year's infrastructure law and this year's microchip manufacturing law, said Heather Briccetti Mulligan, president and CEO of the Business Council of New York State.

Another is raising the $10,000 limit on state and local tax deductions that Republicans set as part of their 2017 federal tax overhaul. That cap hit taxpayers hardest in high-tax, Democratic-leaning states like New York and is less likely to change with Republicans in the House majority.

"We're certainly going to keep advocating for it," Briccetti Mulligan said.

Her overarching goal? For the state's congressional delegation, Democrats and Republicans alike, to act "in a united fashion."

"My one ask is to act in the interests of New York and not in the interest of parties," she said.

Other observers were less optimistic. Bill Hammond, senior fellow for health policy at the Empire Center for Public Policy in Albany, sees an opening for bipartisan work in Congress on health care improvements that both sides say they support, such as making hospital costs more transparent and making mental-health care more accessible.

Related:As COVID raged in New York hospitals, executives pocketed $73M in bonuses

But only a remote possibility. "I'm a little skeptical about the chances for cooperation," Hammond said.

He sees merit in Congress examining coronavirus deaths in nursing homes in New York and elsewhere, so states are better prepared for the next pandemic. A key question is whether New York helped spread infections by ordering nursing homes to accept recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals. But Hammond argued an inquiry could also explore if that directive instead saved lives, by opening beds in crowded hospitals for new patients.

"The fact that other states did it too makes it a worthy topic for Congress," he said.

Megaphone members

Blair Horner, NYPIRG's executive director, argues New York's leaders in Congress could form a "formidable alliance" when working in areas outside of partisan and regional differences. All three have deep connections in the state's political establishment and will amplify in Congress the voices of the many New York groups with whom they have relationships, he said.

One possible area of collaboration, he said, is financial aid for the deeply indebted Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which has statewide significance as the public-transit agency for the city that powers the entire state's economy. But that mission could also fall prey to upstate-downstate differences, he added.

Horner noted that in addition to the trio of New Yorkers holding leadership spots next year, a couple Hudson Valley rookies could wield surprising influence in Congress.

Republicans Mike Lawler and Marc Molinaro both won House seats formerly held by Democrats, each in swing districts that both parties will fight hard to win in 2024. Those seats are so critical in the narrowly divided House that Republicans may give Lawler and Molinaro "an outsized role in development of policy in the House."

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"They will be speaking with a megaphone where other members may be speaking with a whisper," Horner said.

Lawler and Molinaro also may be given greater opportunities to achieve tangible results for their districts that they can show voters in 2024, he argued. "At the end of the day, they're going to have to prove that they're worth re-electing," he said.

Chris McKenna covers government and politics for the Times Herald-Record and USA Today Network. Reach him at

This article originally appeared on Times Herald-Record: Schumer, Stefanik, Jeffries: New Yorkers will wield clout in Congress