Congressional Corner With Sean Patrick Maloney | WAMC

Congressional Corner With Sean Patrick Maloney

Apr 17, 2020

A nation has turned its eyes to Dr. Anthony Fauci.

In today’s Congressional Corner, New York representative Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat from the 18th district, wraps up his conversation with WAMC’s Alan Chartock.

This interview was recorded April 14.

Sean Patrick Maloney is the congressman from New York's beautiful 18th District. He’s been in office since 2013. Sean Patrick Maloney, my first question is, you know, this is a president who has an ability to fire a lot of people. And recently we've been hearing that he might want to fire Anthony Fauci. He’s put out some of the stuff there. He denies it. But then he puts out, he forwards to the American people an idea that he already fired. What would your reaction be if he fired Fauci?

Well, I think it'd be a terrible mistake. I think Anthony Fauci is one of the few people who has real credibility, who is build a career and reputation by being a substantive, effective public health professional. I feel a lot better having him in the mix. I am tempted to ask my friends in the cable news media to stop playing this game of trying to put distance between Fauci and the president almost provoking the fight that is likely to get Fauci fired. I mean, this has been going on for weeks now, where every day the press plays the game of “Let's try to find the gap between Fauci and the president.” And and I don't know that it's gonna help the rest of us to go down the predictable road of watching the President, you know, get annoyed with a guy telling the truth when he’s spinning something different. If it ends up getting Fauci fired, what do you say we all just get through the pandemic, and then we'll, we can go back to normal then?

Vice President Joe Biden is now the presumptive nominee for the Democrats. Polls show him beating President Trump right now, but the election still is more than six months away. How should Biden win? And should he win?

Well, I'm delighted that the Vice President is going to be the Democratic nominee. I think he's a strong, experienced, decent person with great empathy. You can understand what Americans are going through and who will be the calming, unifying Leader we need to get through this crisis, and to drain some of the poison out of our politics, and repair the damage of the last few years. I think he's gonna win this race by just being who he is. By being a guy who understands what working and middle class people go through every day, getting the kids to school, paying the mortgage, putting food on the table planning for retirement. He has lived those struggles as a middle class guy. He gets up every day and thinks about that stuff. And I think that's gonna do him very well in the places we need to win with the voters who have been walking away from us. And yet he can still retain the strong support of the Democratic base. He proved that in the primaries. He had the most diverse, broad based coalition of any of the candidates. He actually won decisively. And yet he has the capacity to unify the party. And it's so important right now, when you look at what's going on in our country. We desperately need a change.

So why do the American people walk away? You said they walked away, that Trump won, the Democrats lost. What was that about?

Oh, I don't think it's over. I think it's about a lot of regular people understanding that politics doesn't have much to do with them, that the things that the parties fight about, and the stuff that goes on, you know, is about somebody else, not them. And whether you're talking about the forces of globalization, or tax policy or trade policy, I think most people have it figured out that the stuff that gets served up in Washington is really answering the needs of people who were wired in who have powerful lobbying arms or have influence in the system. And for a decade or two, you know, regular moms and dads and working people and families like the one I grew up in, have been watching their wages move sideways, if they're lucky, and watching this thing, get stacked against them and all the while they're watching manufacturing jobs get moved somewhere else, or watching the communities getting hollowed out, and they don't like it. They're watching the talented kids have to pick up and move somewhere else and suddenly you can't have a Little League team, and you can't you can't walk down Main Street without stepping on broken sidewalks or walking paths boarded-up buildings. I mean, you know, come with me to the cities I represent they've been through this wringer and what they'd like is that like a government that is well intentioned as they are, and that is actually set up to represent them. And Democratic Party used to be that party. We used to be the party that spoke to everybody. And we can be again, we can talk to kids and inspire them in the future. We can talk to people who live in cities and who've been shut out, or hated on for a long time. But we can also talk to people on the farm, we can talk to people in Appalachia, we can talk to people in rural areas, we need to.

Talk to me a little bit about the Postal Service. All of a sudden, we're hearing that the Postal Service is in danger. We hear from time to time, from year to year, that there isn't enough money to run it that the President isn't in love with it. How important is do we keep it?

It's really important and it doesn't mean it can't be run better and there's always things you do better. But people need to understand that the thing about the post office is that a few years back the Tea Party Congress put a $5 billion stone around the Post Office’s neck by making a pre fund all their obligations. And they invented a fiscal crisis for the Post Office. That is that is just not real. The Postal Service can actually be very profitable now, given the rise of online shopping and the postal traffic, which is quite profitable for them. The Postal Service is a great, great American institution. You know, run it right? Yeah. Run it efficiently? You bet. But don't strangle it, because for a lot of people, it is their connection to the outside world. I mean, for people living in small towns and rural communities, for senior citizens, without the Postal Service, you know, they do not have that connection to the outside world. And, and so I always think it's, it's, it's, it's been an exaggerated sort of manmade problem with the Post Office for the last five years or so.

Hey, Sean. Now you're stuck in your house, obviously, as all of us are. You can't be in the House of Representatives, because that would be more than, you know, 50 people getting together. So is it too much to expect that the Democrats who control the House will get anything else done this year?

No, it's it's not too much to expect we need to get a lot done this year. The question is how to do it in a way that's responsible and safe. We did go back to vote, to past the $2 trillion CARES package, which was speeding hundreds of billions of dollars of relief to people who are unemployed, to small businesses, to people getting direct payments to our hospitals, to our state local governments. You know, that was critical legislation. We need to do more, and all of us are ready to go back tomorrow to do it. Now, we don't want to put anybody in danger doing that there ought to be provisions for either proxy voting or remote voting that can lessen the density of the crowd on the House floor. You can extend the time of votes. There's lots of procedures. Congress can drag itself into the modern era and do some things remotely. But you've got to change the House rules. So that that means you got to go back at least once to do that. And there's a lot of good conversations going on around that. But we've got real work to do. And I think you'll see the Congress do it. So far, to be fair, in the first couple months of this crisis, Congress has enacted three sweeping bipartisan measures into law with the president's signature. First to support families with nutrition assistance with free and universal testing, which has been too slow to get going, but it's been provided for in law, and to speed money to vaccines for the virus to better treatments, and then, of course, trillions of dollars to address the economic crisis. And there's more to do, but I think Americans can be pleased with the bipartisan, sweeping response the Congress has undertaken in the last couple of months. But there's more to do.

So do you have any questions as to whether or not the Democrats will maintain control of the House?

Well, I feel pretty, pretty good about it. And the reason is because we're delivering on issues that that people care about. If you look at the things I just mentioned on the pandemic response, you know, it's been effective and bipartisan and pretty rapid response to this. There's a lot of problems in the way we're addressing the pandemic, in terms of the testing everything else. But if you look at the congressional authorities and resources provided to the President, they are sweeping and bipartisan, and they got done pretty fast. But more broadly, I think that the people understand that it's Democrats in Congress who are trying to do some common sense stuff around things like gun safety, around climate change, around equal pay for equal work, around equal rights for LGBT people. You know, it's the Democrats in Congress who have a plan and passed things to protect the Dreamers and to address immigration once and for all. You know, we've passed 250 bills that are sitting Mitch McConnell's desk, dozens of which are bipartisan major pieces of legislation. So there's a whole picture of progress and a vision for America that's laid out in that legislation that I think will serve us well at the polls. But you know, every election is different and none of us should take anything for granted.

So Nancy Pelosi said that she was going to only one for one more term, I believe. She has since distinguished herself before a lot of Americans as being, you know, a force of nature. Would you forgive her if she kept running?

Would I support her? So what you're asking? Yes, I think she's been highly effective in the in the time since we took back the majority in standing up to the president and passing an agenda that really reflects the values of the American public on all the issues I just mentioned. So I am, I'm glad she's where she is. She's an adult in the room, she brings a level of sobriety and decency, and maturity to the table that that I think is lacking down at the White House. And so I'm glad she's there. And I think she's doing a good job.

So when the president attacks her, does it annoy you?

Look, you know, I think you got to stay focused in this business. I mean, the president, the president wants us all, you know, to act like golden retrievers, and he's got the tennis ball, right? And so all a lot of the stuff that he does is this short term distraction. It can be very alarming and offensive. So I don't blame anybody for being upset from time to time. But the issue is the issue. I mean, if you if you if you ask yourself why Democrats are running the House of Representatives, it's because the American people rejected overwhelmingly, the president's policies in November of 2018. You had the largest turnout in 100 years, and you had the largest margin of victory for a party out of power since 1914. And that is a resounding correction and a rejection of the president's policies. If we stay focused on healthcare, and gun safety, and climate change, and immigration reform, and the things that are sitting on the table that need to get done, like infrastructure, and if we stay focused on getting our state, local property tax and income tax deductions back, then I think people will reward us with another two-year term.

Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney is a Democrat of New York's 18th District, in office since 2013. Sean, I want to personally thank you for coming back and talking to us on a regular basis. We certainly appreciate it.

Happy to do it. Take care and stay safe.

You too.