It has been an eventful few weeks in Washington.
In today’s Congressional Corner, Democratic Representative Antonio Delgado of New York’s 19th district speaks with WAMC’s Alan Chartock.
This interview was recorded February 4.
Alan Chartock: Congressman Antonio Delgado of New York's 19th district, he's been in office since January 2019. Congressman, how are you holding up?
Rep. Antonio Delgado: Well, it's good to be with you, again, I'm doing fine. I'm happy to be able to serve again and recognize that we have a lot to navigate through, with January being the deadliest month on record, with regards to COVID-19. And certainly dealing with the fallout of a very divisive, and at times, very violent election cycle and transition of power, but nonetheless, remain hopeful that we can push forward and with the new administration, begin to do the work of the people, and do so in a way that is unifying, and can give people a sense that we're trying here to put the people first.
Congressman, have you had a shot yet?
Yes, I received my vaccination both at the request or the urging of the advice of the house physician, and in conjunction with continuity, or consistent with continuity of government operations, but also wanted to take the vaccination because I thought it was important to lead by example, in this regard. Surprisingly, there have been a number of folks in our part of the state who have hesitated to take the vaccination. So I wanted to make sure that with all of the inconsistencies around mask wearing, and the appropriateness of social distancing, that we lead in a way here that provides a consistent message. I also note on that flag that while there may be a certain number of folks who have declined the vaccination, the vast majority, this is good to know, the vast majority of folks want the vaccination and it’s incumbent upon us, at the federal level to do more, to both increase the supply of the vaccination, but also to ensure that we are coordinating with folks on the ground, the local public health departments, the local elected, and of course, the pharmacies, to make sure that people could access these vaccinations and do so in a way where they don't have to travel hours on end and have to wait an unreasonable period of time.
Antonio Delgado, you were there on January 6th, obviously, what was your experience when the hordes descended?
While I was with my family.
If you recall, the swearing in occurred earlier in the week. So my wife and kids came to DC. And we were all together. That morning, I was in my apartment, which is just a few blocks away from the Capitol and preparing to make my way to the Capitol with my wife and kids and things materialized very quickly, while I was getting ready, and ultimately it got to a point where it didn't seem as if me walking to the Capitol, was the appropriate approach. Nonetheless, certainly I was prepared and ready and did in fact, go to the Capitol that evening, with my colleagues around, I believe it was seven or eight o'clock and stayed until 4am in the morning, until we were able to certify the election result. And that to me was critically important. It was a very dark day, a very dark day, and a very traumatic day for the country. It was hard, personally, to sit there with my seven year old twin boys asking me questions about what's happening at the Capitol. You know, Daddy, are you going to the Capitol? That's hard and to have those conversations with your wife in America, it was certainly something that for me, I carry with me to this day, and you know, to my colleagues who were ultimately on the floor, while the violence was ensuing. I've had a number of discussions with them and the trauma there is real. It's really intense. And I think we as a country must face that truth. We have to face the truth and not try to minimize it. It was an assault on our democracy, a terrifying assault on our democracy. And people need to be held to account.
Was there ever a moment, Congressman that you felt in danger, even though you're in your apartment, that this might be a total coup, they might be looking for congressmen, wherever they were. Was there that moment?
Well, I can tell you, there were levels of fear. First level was for my colleagues who I knew were there and on the floor. The second was, in the evening, when I had to make my way to the Capitol, the air was tense, and certainly felt unsafe, and I had to take precautions to make sure that I can get to the Capitol safely. And then even in the Capitol, once you're in there, having just witnessed what had transpired, the air in the in the building was tense. So from my vantage point, it was no doubt, a moment, a quality about this whole experience that felt very unfamiliar in terms of as a member of Congress, as somebody who believes in our democracy, and to peaceful transition of power, to know that, that that level of violence, or any level could come that close to the seat of government, in America, the standard bearer of democracy is one that we have to really step back and reflect upon as a country, and simply do the work of understanding what must be done to make sure that we do all we can to protect our democracy, and do right by each other in the process.
Congressman, Antonio Delgado, let me ask you this. How did our friend Jim McGovern do, the chairman of the Rules Committee, that evening?
Well, I think, you know, a lot of folks stepped up that evening, and did the work of the people. I was very proud. And moved. You know, I remember, right before, at the height of, I wouldn't say the height, but what a lot of the tension was ongoing, and there was still some confusion, myself, and I know a number of other colleagues, there was already a sense that we’re going to go back to the Capitol tonight. And we're going to get this done, no matter what the situation, no matter how long it takes, we're going to go back. And I recall talking to my wife, and I had put on my suit and was ready to go and I said, listen, you know, we're going to get called back tonight. And that's going to happen, and I'm going and I know a lot of my colleagues are prepared to do the same. And she understood that wholeheartedly. And for us to go back that night, that evening and to do the work, and to certify the results. It wasn't just about certifying this election, and the results of this election. It was about certifying democracy. It was about acknowledging that this is fundamental to who we are as Americans, and an understanding that is important to signal not just to ourselves, but to the world at large, that this matters, and not just on a surface level. This is the essence of our work. And so to be able to be in the arena, if you will, and put down the flag for democracy and hold true to our principles and our values and to protect them in a moment of crisis. You know, I was proud of everybody who stood there that evening to do that work.
And we're proud of you, Congressman Antonio Delgado. Thanks for spending this time with us today. When we come back the next time, I've got a lot of questions that follow on all of this. So thank you so much for being here.