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Congressional Corner With Anthony Brindisi

U.S. Representative for New York's 22nd congressional district Anthony Brindisi
Official Portrait 116th Congress

New York has some of the nation’s only true purple districts.

In today’s Congressional Corner, Democrat Anthony Brindisi of New York’s 22nd Congressional district speaks with WAMC’s Alan Chartock.

This interview was recorded May 11.

Alan Chartock: Representative Anthony Brindisi he is a first term democrat from New York's 22nd congressional district. Anthony Brindisi won by, well, not a huge number of votes the last time out. What are the chances you'll win again, Anthony?

Congressman Anthony Brindisi: I think we'll do okay in November. Obviously, there's a long time between now and then but I've really built up a lot of hard work over the last year and a half on behalf of people here in the district, getting some good bipartisan legislative wins that are important on issues in the 22nd district. So while all my focus right now is on the coronavirus and the response, I'm sure there'd be plenty of time for politics down the road. But right now, I think it's important that we focus on what's most important, and that's trying to deal with this public health crisis and the economic fallout that is happening across our country.

Now, Anthony Brindisi, you have every reason for talking about this great crisis, because last time we talked to you, you were in self quarantine for the coronavirus. How's that doing now?

Well, thankfully, I made it through the quarantine with no symptoms. So I'm fine now. Now I'm just on regular isolation like everybody else. But we made it through, no problems there. And we've been able to do a lot of work here from home on issues that are coming up in the next Coronavirus response act and helping constituents deal with some of the challenges that they're facing right now, in terms of the small business assistance or the unemployment, or direct stimulus payments, so it's been a busy couple months since we last talked, but the work continues.

So what was it that put you into quarantine? Did you come into contact with somebody who had it?

I did. A friend of mine who was a representative from Utah, his name is Ben McAdams. He and I are good friends. I had saw him. I've been with him in a couple meetings. I think it was March, March 11 or 12th, around there. Right before we passed, I think it was the second coronavirus response bill. Maybe was the third at that point. But in any event, I'd come in contact with him. And the following week I was home and got a call from the attending physician who said that Ben had tested positive for COVID-19 and that anyone who came in contact with him should isolate for two weeks. So at that point, I was home and wasn't having any symptoms. And thankfully, I made it through that period there with no symptoms and I’m still fine right now.

So what do you think about what's going on in the White House where these folks are not doing what you did, the president should clearly be self-quarantined, shouldn't he? Because he’s been in touch with all these people?

Yeah, look, the White House has to set a good example here for the rest of the country, and I've been in the West Wing before. It's very crowded, it's very cramped, you have a lot of folks working in that part of the building. And it's very hard to social distance and to isolate yourself in that part of the building. So if there are folks that came in contact, they should be following CDC guidelines, just like any other American has to follow right now. If you come in contact with someone, you should be self-isolating, because you don't want to spread this disease to others. So hopefully, they'll exercise a little more responsibility there and make sure that they're doing everything that we're doing out in the public, to keep people safe and healthy.

Are you wearing a mask when you go out?

Absolutely. You know that that is the rule here in New York right now. When you're outside you should be wearing a mask and whether it's my wife and I going on a walk, or going to the grocery store, whatever we're doing, we're wearing a mask right now, because that's not only for our own safety, but for the safety of others.

So that's, as far as I'm concerned, you’re a true leader because you're the Congressman, and you're wearing it. Now they're seeing you do that. But shouldn't the President of the United States be wearing a mask?

I think he should. Certainly when he's going to, I think he was in Arizona last week and went to go visit a mask making factory. You do have to lead by example. No matter who the President is, or governor, whatever local official, you're a public official, and you should be leading by example. And that includes the president.

Now Governor Cuomo says the federal delegation, in other words, our New York delegation, needs to do more on behalf of New York State. Last time we spoke, you took some issue with that, saying the government is wrong. Local governments say they need aid or they will have to start cutting services and jobs. What are you hearing?

It's, it's pretty dire out there right now and I agree with the governor. We do need more aid here in New York State, not just for our state but also our local governments. We have a real situation at hand here where because New York is the epicenter of this virus, state and many of our local governments are facing coronavirus expenses. They're also facing a significant loss of revenue because of coronavirus. And many of them are planning on making pretty deep cuts right now, if we don't get some assistance from the federal government. I actually led a letter last week and had just about every mayor, county leader and state representative who touches the congressional district that I represent, signed on to a letter that was directed to both Leader McConnell is well as Speaker Pelosi, calling for more state and local aid, and it was a bipartisan letter. We had Democrats and Republicans on there. But these local officials know, because they see the train coming down the tracks, that if we don't get some help from the feds, they're going to have to cut back. And usually, when the state cuts back, or local governments cut back, it's going to be in the areas of public safety, so our police, our firefighters. It’s going to be in the fields of education, so our teachers and our higher educated at higher education. It's going to be in healthcare, so nurses and healthcare staff, and these are these are the folks that are getting us through this pandemic, right now. They're the ones that are on the frontlines, keeping us going here during this public health crisis, and also keeping our economy running, so it would be a great insult to them, not to be able to get some aid to these localities to prevent the kinds of budget cuts that are coming down the road.

I want to take off from there the budget cuts coming down the road. We know that if Andrew Cuomo doesn't get help from the feds, and that's what you took exception to, you didn't take exception to the fact that you needed the help. You took exception to the fact that you weren't working hard enough. You are working hard enough, as you have just said. So if education is cut 20%, can you imagine 20% people will be fired, classes will be larger. And there's not a thing that could be done about it, right?

It'll be it'll be brutal. There will not be a thing that can be done about it. And you're right, it could result in in school buildings closing, it will result in a cut in salary or potential layoffs among public health workers, and public safety workers. No sector of the state will be spared if we don't get some help from the federal government. So I think the governor is correct. We need the help. And I can tell you that the delegation as a whole is very supportive and working very hard to try and get more to the state. One thing I would caution is, whatever does come to the state I would hate to see, or to localities, I would hate to see the state continue to cut the local governments or the school districts that happened in the last relief package, the cares act. We got funding, for example, from school districts from the federal government. And then the state just turned around and cut the share that they give to school districts by the amount the federal government got for the school. So I think we all have a part here to try and help our localities in our state. But if we do get aid in here to the state and local governments, then the state should continue their support for K through 12 education, higher education, health care. So that's something that you know, that I would put back to our state representatives and the governor to make sure that that doesn't happen.

Representative Anthony Brindisi. He is a first term democrat from New York's 22nd congressional district. Anthony, always a great pleasure to talk to you and to hear your straight talking. so, so appreciate it.

Thank you Alan. It's always good to be on with you.

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.