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New York Democrat Calls Congress 'Performative,' Announces Plans to Resign

'I think we’re at the beginning phases of a deterioration of the prestige of the institution,' said Representative Brian Higgins

A New York congressman announced he will leave office before the end of his current term.

Representative Brian Higgins told The Buffalo News that he will retire from Congress in February. His current term ends in 2025.

“Congress is not the institution that I came to 19 years ago,” said the Democrat during an interview. “And, you know, it’s in a very, very bad place right now. I am hopeful, as I always am, that it gets better. But unfortunately, I think we’re at the beginning phases of a deterioration of the prestige of the institution.”

Higgins criticized the current culture of the House of Representatives and, in particular, recently elected Republicans.  

“Congress has become performative,” he added. “Everybody that’s making a name for themselves is making a spectacle of themselves. The more outrageous they act, the more attention they get.”

He added that “many of the historic tools at the institution are being … weaponized to demonize the other side” and called attempting to legislate “very frustrating” and “a very slow process.”

“It doesn’t encourage the establishment of an ambitious agenda,” he said. “Unfortunately, I think we’re at the beginning of a bad trend, a bad patch.”

Higgins represents New York’s 26th congressional district upstate. A native of Buffalo, Higgins was an instructor in the History and Economics departments at SUNY Buffalo State University prior to running for national office. He was a member of the Buffalo Common Council and a member of the New York State Assembly.

During the current Congress, Higgins serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and is a member of the Subcommittees on Health, Trade, and Social Security. He is a member of several special interest committees including the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, the House Manufacturing Caucus, the Labor Caucus, and the Equality Caucus. He also co-chairs the Northern Border Caucus, which focuses on the mutual economic and security concerns of the United States and Canada. 

The congressman, who was first elected in 2004, told Buffalo News that he went to Washington, D.C. not hoping to “change the world” but rather “with a plan of changing [his] community.”

I think that’s what we have done, along with the extraordinarily talented people that work with me and have worked with me individually and collectively,” he said.

After leaving office, Higgins will take over as the president of Shea’s Performing Arts Center, a collective of three theaters in Buffalo. The organization aims to provide “present and future generations … a working historic theatre providing a wide variety of live performing arts experiences” as well as “innovative and effective educational experiences fostering an appreciation of live theatre by area youth.”

A special election will be held next year to replace Higgins.

New York Democrats praised Higgins and his legislative legacy following the news of his impending departure from Congress.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the 64-year-old “has delivered exceptional results for Buffalo and Western New York during his time in Washington,” per WGRZ.

Over the last 19 years, Congressman Brian Higgins has revolutionized the way the nation sees Buffalo,” said state Senator Tim Kennedy in a statement, per WKBW. “He has transformed our city’s waterfront, delivered historic investments for Western New York’s infrastructure and transportation networks, secured critical funding for our medical corridor and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, and served as a key conduit between businesses and the endless opportunities that exist across our region. … On a personal level, I’m grateful to the Congressman for his years of guidance, collaboration, and friendship.”

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