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Biden Inauguration: NY Rep. Maloney Says New President Shows "A Light Within The Darkness"

NY-18 Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney
Courtesy of the Office of Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney
NY-18 Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney

Joe Biden took the oath of office at noon Wednesday to become the 46th president of the United States. He takes charge in a deeply divided nation, inheriting a confluence of crises arguably greater than any faced by his predecessors. WAMC has been speaking with members of Congress from the Northeast who attended the inauguration. Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney represents New York's 18th district.Well, I thought he got it exactly right. It was a message of healing, but also of accountability. And I think we need both.

Do you think that healing is possible right now, given the divisions we've seen?

Yes, I think as the president says, there's always light. And there is light within this darkness. And Joe Biden has found that light throughout his long career in his own life, and I think he's the perfect person to lead our country through this period of darkness, remembering that there's still a light within the darkness. And yet also, as he reaches out his hand, to his political opponents, making an important distinction around the need for accountability and the need for the need for truth in our politics, I think some of his strongest words were in condemning the lies that have characterized our recent political life. And I thought that was an important distinction to make, even as he clearly seeks to represent all Americans in the presidency.

We haven't heard much from her today yet, but what do you think of the trailblazing moment for the new Vice President, Kamala Harris?

Oh, absolutely heartwarming and emotional. I think for all of us, who were there who have interracial families, like theirs. You know, for my kids, for my family, it's a wonderful moment to see a diverse family stepping into that role. Obviously, she's breaking one of the most enduring barriers in American politics. She shattered the glass ceiling around the vice presidency. It's just a wonderful thing to witness.

What was your experience of the inauguration today, given the fact that just two weeks ago, the same Capitol was under siege?

I think there was a real sense of resolve that we have reclaimed our sacred spaces. It felt quite good, to be honest with you, to cleanse those spaces of the stain of violence and hatred that we saw just two weeks ago in the very same spot.

And you did you feel safe today? Did you notice some, you know, an increased security presence, that kind of thing?

I felt extremely safe. There's been considerable improvements to the security around the Capitol. That would have always been the case for a Presidential Inaugural, but obviously, given both the pandemic and the events of January 6, it was taken to a different level. But I think the participants, those of us who were on the platform, felt perfectly safe, and it was handled very professionally.

This is obviously a big day for your party. I know you and others worked very hard to hold the House and then take control of the Senate with those Georgia runoffs. It's a majority, but a very slim one. What kind of message do you think the American people sent to the Democratic Party about what they want to see in the next term?

Well, obviously, when your party is given the majority in both houses and the presidency, there is some mandate to govern around the policies that you have promoted. I think it is clear that the American public expect and deserve real results on the most important issue, which is defeating the pandemic, getting the vaccine out to the hundreds of millions of Americans who need it, restarting this economy and healing our country. And those aren't partisan goals. Those aren't the goals of one party or the other. They’re the critical needs of our country. And that's where we should be focused. And I know that's going to be the President's priority and are our priority on Capitol Hill.

For you, what would you say is your number one in the early days here of the Biden administration?

Well, they would track clearly the national priorities. It's critical that we accelerate the distribution of the vaccine to all of my constituents, to New Yorkers, then to all Americans. Until we do that, we will not be able to restart the economy and take the pressure off of Hudson Valley families because of the recession and then the effects of the pandemic. So that's clearly job one. There's an important relief package that the President has announced that we will be pushing aggressively, but there will be other priorities as well. They will include a major infrastructure bill that I've been working on for years, and I just can't wait to have a real partner in the White House now. So there's a lot of work to do, and I can't wait to get it done.

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.
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