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Congressional Corner With Antonio Delgado

Congressman Antonio Delgado
Antonio Delgado, official portrait, 116th Congress
public domain

In today’s Congressional Corner, Democratic Representative Antonio Delgado of New York’s 19th district wraps up his conversation with WAMC’s Alan Chartock.

This interview was recorded May 22.

Alan Chartock: Here we are in the Congressional Corner with Congressman Antonio Delgado. Congressman. First of all, we want to say how much we appreciate your being here with us and your responsiveness. It's very helpful.

Representative Antonio Delgado: Well, I appreciate being on with you as always.

People need to know what's happening. Okay, so what makes the 19th District unique?

Well, it's a pretty amazing place. You know, I'm very proud of the fact that we are the eighth most rural district out of 435 in the country. You’re talking about 163 towns and the biggest one in all of the 8,000 square miles is Kingston at about 23,000 people. You know, as this district is bigger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, and it is filled with just an amazing collection of small cities and big towns. And just immaculate majestic beauty In terms of the Catskill Mountains and Delaware River, you know, all these wonderful opportunities for fly fishing and hiking and it's just spectacular in every way, shape or form. And then of course, you know what the farming community does. This amazing collection of small family owned farms. It's just so picturesque when you drive through and when I make that drive, from Dutchess all the way west to Delaware County, it is such an amazing drive and a sight to see every step of the way. So every mile of the way. So, you know, when you say what's unique, I would just say the beauty, you know, is truly amazing. And of course, the people, real salt of the earth, they care for each other, we care for each other. And you know, it's a beautiful, beautiful place.

You've been promoting Medicare X Choice Act. What's that?

Well, that's a bill that would get us to a system that is not dominated exclusively by the private insurance company. It would create a public option so that if you are not pleased with your current private insurance coverage and the lack of affordability, you at least have the option to choose Medicare and a system that's going to have lower costs, lower premiums, lower deductibles. Now, if you do like your private insurance, you can keep it and you don't have to choose the public option. But for too long, you know, we have been a system healthcare system, that unless you qualify for Medicare, Medicaid, or TRICARE, you are entirely beholden to the profit motivations of the private insurance marketplace. And that's just not right, you know, we should be able to create more competition with a government based option, option, and that'll certainly represent the floor of the system and it will have the effect of bringing down premiums, it’ll have the effect of bringing down deductibles, but it still maintains that critical element of choice. So again, people don't feel forced to have to do anything. But if they are looking for another option that might be more affordable, I think this is the way to get it done.

Will this thing pass, number one, and number two, will it be DOA, dead on arrival in the Senate?

Well, every bill has a path of its own and the objective is to figure out how to build support. I do think that because of the fact that we are seeking here to build consensus, right, and we're trying to create optionality while still achieving the goal of universal reality in terms of universal coverage, to me, that's the best way to push a bill like this through both chambers to ultimately get the law that we desire. So I would say that we've put ourselves in the best position to have this bill generate some inertia and get through both bodies. Nothing is guaranteed, nothing is promised, but I believe that we've really made a concerted effort to create fertile ground for common ground. And I think as long as we have that mentality, who knows what might happen as we get through the election year. But you try to put yourself in the best position to make sure that when folks come back to the table, we can go from there. Keep in mind that we're dealing with an administration that's currently attacking the ACA, in our in our core system. So it's a battle right now, just to keep what we have.

There's a chance, of course, just a chance that the Democrats take the Senate and they take the presidency. If that happens, will this bill of yours be the one that you will Medicare X, the one that you would go with or with something more ambitious than that?

This is my bill, Alan. Of course, I'm gonna go with my bill, why would I go to the effort of putting forth a bill, putting my name on the bill, seeking support from my bill, and then when I get the chance to actually be an advocate for a walk away from it? No. I'm gonna do everything I can to push my bill, that I don't put things out there that I think, you know, don't have a chance of really affecting our communities in a positive way. I stand by my bill, and I feel very comfortable with pushing it, and I'd be excited at the prospect of being able to do so.

Well, Congressman, let me just say, no insult intended, however, there are those Americans who think that there ought to be Medicare for All. And that's where we're going. We have presidential candidates who have said it over and over again. Your bill seems like a very reasonable compromise, considering the political situation right now. All I was saying was, if the Democrats take everything, there's a chance that there will be Democrats including a lot of progressive, Bernie Sanders type progressive people who will want more. That's all I was saying. Again, no insult intended.

No, no, no insult taken. I was just making an observation that, you know, I'm certainly going to be an advocate for the bill that I've put my name on and I've spent a lot of time with my team, trying to assure through the House. Absolutely.

Okay. With that in mind, we're running out of time, I want to ask you, who should Joe Biden pick as his potential running mate?

That's a hard question to answer right now. And I don't, you know, I think there are a lot of good options. And I've tried to not spend a ton of time thinking about the presidential sort of jockeying, if you will. There's a lot of issues that are happening right now that I'm spending a lot of my time focusing on, I think there are a bunch of different names that are floating out, floating around and I think Any number of the options could be good options. I just think it's important that whoever Biden picks that we do everything in our power to come together and figure out how to build consensus, figure out how to understand that we're going through a very tumultuous time right now, as a country, and we're going to need principled, thoughtful, composed leadership. We’re going to need people who can lend a common voice to this current climate that we find ourselves in. And I, that's what I hope, I just hope that whoever his VP pick is can speak to that issue as well, because we're going to need that.

How about voting? I only got a minute, but I want to ask you about that. Should we all be voting by mail at the stage of the game ?This president who has been accused of certain kinds of frauds himself has said, no, you know, no, because it will be fraud laden, what do you think?

Well, I'll say this. I don't know why we would call ourselves, why do we take so much pride in the fact that we are a democracy if we're not going to act like it? Right? And at the heart of any democracy is the ability for everybody, everyday Americans to have the ability to exercise that right to vote. And if we are in a situation where that right might be impacted or undermined or impinged upon, that is anti-democratic. And so, you know, as somebody who loves that we as America, have anchored ourselves in democracy. We fought a revolution based on this concept and gave birth to freedom. And so for us to now not appreciate the need to protect the right to vote, in every and all scenarios, in my opinion is antithetical to what it fundamentally means to be American. And if you look at the Heroes Act, you know, we do a number of things to try to meet the moment. I think there's a 15 consecutive day early voting period for all federal elections. We have every voter allowed to vote absentee by mail. You know, I think there's also same day voter registration. We provide some critical funding for election security. You know, let us not forget that we had our electoral system attacked by a foreign adversary the last go round here. And so, you know, we've got to do all we can to protect our system and to protect the right to vote and enable folks to be heard, and be accounted for in our system,

Congressman Antonio Delgado from the beautiful 19th district has been talking to us. Congressman, thanks so much. I know how busy you are. And we love having you come on and hope you'll do it again and good luck on everything.

Absolutely. My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Dr. Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the University at Albany. He hosts the weekly Capitol Connection series, heard on public radio stations around New York. The program, for almost 12 years, highlighted interviews with Governor Mario Cuomo and now continues with conversations with state political leaders. Dr. Chartock also appears each week on The Media Project and The Roundtable and offers commentary on Morning Edition, weekdays at 7:40 a.m..