WASHINGTON — Freshman U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, continued to call the federal government shutdown, which is in its 14th day, irresponsible before formally taking office Thursday.
He again stressed his willingness to work with anyone on either side of the political fence to see government back open for business.
Delgado, who succeeds John Faso of Kinderhook, was sworn in Thursday afternoon in the House of Representatives chambers. Before joining his fellow Democrats as the majority conference of the House, Delgado addressed the political climate he is entering.
“It is interesting to come into office in this climate,” Delgado told reporters in a conference call Thursday morning. “We ran a campaign on restoring people’s faith in democracy and in good government.”
Their faith is being tested, Delgado said, as the federal government shutdown continued without a resolution in sight. The government went into a partial shutdown Dec. 22 when Congress failed to pass a spending plan for the new year, in part due to a clash between legislators and President Donald Trump over his insistence on $5 billion in funding for a security wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.
New House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the rest of the new leadership have refused to include any money for a wall in any spending plan, while the president has stood his ground, saying he will not sign a budget bill without funding for a wall.
“Our faith is being tested at an incredibly high level at this point,” Delgado said. “I think it is imperative that members of Congress work very hard to get through this process, cooperate and reach a resolution.”
After congressional leaders met with Trump in the White House Situation Room on Wednesday it seemed both parties were at odds, with each pointing fingers at the other.
After the meeting, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters the leaders will meet with the president again Friday and that he is hopeful a compromise can be reached at that meeting.
“I was a little disappointed with some on the other side,” McCarthy said. “Once [Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen] started briefing us [Senate Minority Leader Charles B. Schumer, D-N.Y.] interrupted her; they really did not want to hear it.”
House Democrats introduced, and voted on, two stopgap bills to fund most of the government through Sept. 30 and the Department of Homeland Security until Feb. 8. The bills include $1.3 billion for border security measures, such as enhanced surveillance, and fortified fencing.
“This legislation is based on legislation already passed by the Republican-led Senate,” Pelosi said Wednesday. “We have given the Republicans the chance to take yes for an answer.”
Delgado called the shutdown irresponsible and said he will work with anyone to get the government open again.
“I will work with anyone,” Delgado said. “To put my head down and figure out how to do it.”
Delgado also told reporters he is working on getting membership in the House committees on Agriculture or Transportation and Infrastructure, which he said can help him do the best work for the district.
“Being on those committees will allow me to do the work that I think could be most impactful for my constituents,” Delgado said. “For the farmers, small to mid-tier family farms, who are looking for real advocacy on that committee.”
Delgado also stressed the infrastructure challengers the district faces, including lack of broadband, crumbling roads and bridges and a lack of public transportation.