19th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT -- Even with the House impeachment inquiry deeply dividing Democrats and Republicans in Congress, U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado said he's hopeful "common sense legislation" like the limousine safety bill he co-sponsored can become law.
"I'm hopeful we can get some things through," Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, said during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.
Delgado, a freshman legislator who represents the 19th Congressional District, which runs from the Hudson Valley to Schoharie and Montgomery counties, sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which will handle review of the limousine safety bills introduced in October. The bills were introduced in response to the 2018 Schoharie limousine crash that claimed 20 lives.
The bills have bipartisan support, with local Republican U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, co-sponsoring the three bills, along with Delgado and U.S. Rep. Paul D. Tonko, D-Amsterdam.
"I think some of the limousine legislation has a chance," Delgado said. "These are all bills I have tried to rally around and support. They are not controversial bills. They are needed to make our roads safer. I think if we put our heads down and move forward we can get some things accomplished.”
The proposed bills would require new limousines to meet upgraded safety standards for seat belts and seat strength, create a federal grant program to support states' efforts to impound or immobilize vehicles that have failed critical state safety inspections, and would ensure that vehicles altered after manufacture to transport more than 15 passengers would fall under federal commercial motor vehicles rules.
All three bills are based on recommendations the National Transportation Safety Board made after the Schoharie crash, in which a stretched limousine that had failed state safety inspections crashed, killing 17 passengers, the driver, and two pedestrians.
On other topics, Delgado, who is expected to seek re-election to a second term next year, said he is closely following the impeachment investigation, which began public hearings on Wednesday. Delgado came out in favor of an impeachment investigation in October, following revelations about President Donald Trump's July phone call with the president of Ukraine, in which he is accused of pressuring for Ukraine to investigate a presidential rival Joe Biden.
“I’ve been following these dynamics closely," he said. "It’s important that we get the truth to be heard. Let's be clear, the president has already said he asked for an investigation, and that to me is alarming. We know the military aid was withheld, now the question is, to what purpose.”
Delgado also said he is "deeply concerned" that based on arguments heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, the Trump administration's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals amnesty program for illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children could be ended.
"We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people, this is the only country they know," he said. "I find it heartless and lacking any modicum of compassion ... It is sad we find ourselves in this position with people that are American in every other way."
He said he also hopes to see the U.S. Mexico Canada Trade Agreement to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement adopted "sooner rather than later," though questions about the enforcement of labor protections remain. Upstate dairy farmers generally favor it because it will increase access to Canadian markets.
"We have a lot of farmers in my district, and a lack of clarity on this is very unsettling for them," Delgado said.