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Diverse priorities for new members of Congress

Becca Balint addresses supporters in Burlington, VT on election night, 2022.
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Becca Balint addresses supporters in Burlington, VT on election night, 2022.

With the new year, several new House representatives from the Northeast will head to Washington.

Part of the reason Republicans will hold a slim majority in the new Congress is that they flipped key swing districts in New York’s Hudson Valley.

One of the GOP’s biggest prizes was New York’s new 17th district, where state Assemblyman Mike Lawler unseated five-term Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, who was leading Democrats’ national midterm efforts.

Lawler has said it’s time for his party to move past former President Donald Trump. He says he plans to represent the 17th district from the middle.

“I’m going to continue to do what I’ve always done, which is talk to everybody, listen to what their concerns are, and make sure that from a policy standpoint, I’m representing my district,” he said. “I have among the most bipartisan voting records in Albany. I have every intention of continuing that in Washington, because my objective is get things done on behalf of the people who sent me there, whether they voted for me or not. And I’m representing, obviously, a diverse district.”

Another new Republican in the Capitol is longtime Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who also previously served in the state Assembly. He says he has several priorities while representing the new 19th district.

“Cost of living, public safety and creating opportunity in this district. And what that means is, I do think we have to hold Washington accountable,” he said. “We shouldn’t be spending dollars we don’t have and if we are spending taxpayer dollars, we have to make sure they’re being spent effectively and efficiently. But that also means creating real relief for families, farmers and small businesses through regulatory reform and through meaningful tax relief.

Molinaro won a close race in November after falling short in August’s special election to replace Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado against Pat Ryan. Ryan, the former Democratic Ulster County Executive, went on to win November’s election in the new 18th district.

The West Point graduate has been serving the Armed Services Committee.

“And then I’m hoping to serve on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which at the end of the day is a huge opportunity to bring projects, dollars and improvements to our infrastructure here in our Hudson Valley, from Metro-North to expanding Route 17 to fixing a lot of the roadways that we all have to drive over every day, and of course addressing the broadband issues and cell service issues. So Armed Services and Transportation and Infrastructure are where I hope to serve.”

Meantime, Vermonters are sending their first woman to Congress in history. Democrat Becca Balint won the at-large seat as she succeeds Democrat Peter Welch, who is replacing Patrick Leahy in the Senate.

Balint says her experience as state Senate Pro Tem can translate to committee work in Washington.

“My first is Financial Services. I have a lot of experience in my state legislature dealing with issues of housing and consumer protections. Housing was a huge part of my platform. We’re having a housing crisis in Vermont and I want to be on the committee that most directly deals with those issues,” she said. “It is kind of a stretch committee in that it’s a more exclusive committee but I have tried to make my pitch to the chair/soon to be ranking member about my candidacy for that spot as well as the folks on Steering and Policy. So that’s my first choice. Hoping if that works out I also want to waive on to the Oversight Committee.”

For his part, Welch will be a 75-year-old newcomer to the Senate after eight terms in the House.

“This is a whole new job, a whole new challenge, but the things I care about — Vermont, our democracy, climate change, affordability, trying to bring down inflation, those don’t change even though I walk across the Capitol from one side, the House chamber, to the other side, the Senate chamber,” he said.

The new term begins Jan. 3.

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.