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REP. RITCHIE TORRES: MAN ON A MISSION

New York Congressman Ritchie Torres is a man on a mission across the nation. Tonight- what he’s thinking after the historic inauguration and impeaching President Donald Trump for inciting the Capitol Hill riot. His mission to Washington to save public housing right here in New York. And why he’s supporting Andrew Yang for mayor, regardless of the ridicule and the hype.

AIRED: January 21, 2021 | 0:13:14
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>>> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO

"METROFOCUS."

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

IN JUST HIS FIRST MONTH IN

CONGRESS, BRONX REPRESENTATIVE

RICHIE TORRES AND HIS FRESHMAN

COLLEAGUES HAVE SURVIVED AN

ATTACK ON THE CAPITOL IMPEACHED

A PRESIDENT AND WATCHED ANOTHER

ONE TAKE THE OATH OF OFFICE.

IT'S BEEN AN EXTRAORDINARY AND

SOMETIMES TERRIFYING START TO A

CAREER IN CONGRESS BUT TORRES

WOULD LIKELY BE THE FIRST TO

TELL YOU, IT'S JUST THAT, A

START.

AFTER SPENDING THE BETTER PART

OF THE LAST DECADE SERVING THE

BRONX ON THE CITY COUNCIL, THE

DEMOCRAT NOW REPRESENTS THE

BOROUGH'S 15th CONGRESSIONAL

DISTRICT.

HE'S ARRIVED IN CONGRESS WITH

PLANS TO CONTINUE HIS FIGHT TO

ADDRESS THE STATE OF PUBLIC

HOUSING.

AND HE'S ONCE AGAIN BREAKING

BARRIERS AS THE FIRST OPENLY DAY

AFR-LATINO MEMBER OF CONGRESS.

BUT WHAT EXACTLY ARE HIS GOALS

FOR HIS FIRST TERM IN CONGRESS?

WHAT DOES HE THINK A BIDEN WHITE

HOUSE WILL MEAN FOR THE

TRI-STATE?

AND WHY IS HE ENDORSING FORMER

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ANDREW

YANG TO BE THE NEXT MAYOR OF NEW

YORK?

I RECENTLY GOT THE CHANCE TO ASK

HIM.

TAKE A LOOK.

CONGRESSMAN TORRES, WELCOME BACK

TO "METROFOCUS."

WE ARE ALWAYS GLAD TO SEE YOU.

>> IT'S AN HONOR TO BE WITH YOU.

>> THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

AND, OF COURSE, WE ALSO WANT TO

SAY WE'RE THANKFUL TO SEE THAT

YOU'RE OKAY AFTER EVERYTHING, OF

COURSE, THAT HAPPENED WITH THE

SIEGE ON THE CAPITOL.

BUT FIRST OFF, I JUST WANT TO

GET YOUR TAKE.

YOU'RE ONE OF THE FEW PEOPLE WHO

GOT A CHANCE TO ATTEND THE

INAUGURATION AND ACTUALLY SEE IT

AND I'M WONDERING WHAT WAS YOUR

EXPERIENCE?

WHAT WAS YOUR TAKEAWAY FROM

HAVING BEEN THERE AFTER

EVERYTHING THAT YOU ALREADY HAD

BEEN THROUGH IN YOUR FIRST FEW

DAYS IN WASHINGTON?

>> WELL, I HAD WHAT I CALLED THE

WILDEST WEDNESDAY.

ON JANUARY 6th, I SAW AN

INSURRECTION AGAINST THE U.S.

CAPITOL.

ON JANUARY 13th, I SAW -- I

VOTED TO IMPEACH DONALD TRUMP.

HE WAS THE FIRST PRESIDENT TO BE

IMPEACHED NOT ONCE BUT TWICE.

AND ON JANUARY 20th, I SAW THE

INAUGURATION OF JOE BIDEN AND

KAMALA HARRIS.

SO I'M ALMOST AFRAID TO ASK WHAT

WILL NEXT WEDNESDAY BRING, BUT

IT'S BEEN THE MOST EVENTFUL

THREE WEEKS OF MY LIFE.

AND IT WAS DEEPLY MOVING TO BE

PART OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE

KAMALA HARRIS, THE FIRST WOMAN,

FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN, FIRST

ASIAN AMERICAN IN THE

PRESIDENCY, BEING SWORN IN BY

JUSTICE SONJA IA SOTOMAYOR, THE

FIRST LATINA ON THE SUPREME

COURT, TELLS A POWERFUL STORY

ABOUT HOW FAR WE'VE COME AS A

NATION.

IT CAPTURES THE IDEA OF AMERICA

AS A MULTIRACIAL, MULTI ETHNIC,

INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY AND IT

SERVES AS A POWERFUL REMINDER

THAT THE FUTURE OF OUR COUNTRY

DOES NOT BELONG TO DONALD TRUMP

AND THE EXTREMISM THAT HE HAS

UNLEASHED, IT BELONGS TO

MULTIRACIAL, MULTIETHNIC

DEMOCRACIES.

>> WELL, BEFORE WE GO BACK AND ,

WHICH WILL COME UP AGAIN WITH

THE SENATE TRIAL, BUT MORE

IMPORTANTLY, I WANT TO TALK TO

YOU ABOUT THE LEGISLATIVE

AGENDA.

NOW, PRESIDENT BIDEN IS STARTING

OFF WITH A LOT OF EXPECTATIONS

FROM A LOT OF PEOPLE.

AND I'M JUST TALKING ABOUT THE

LEFT, NOT NECESSARILY WHAT ALL

OF THE COUNTRY IS EXPECTING OR

HOPING AND WANTING HIM TO DO.

BUT YOU'VE ALWAYS BEEN AN

ADVOCATE FOR PUBLIC HOUSING, AND

I'M WONDERING, I KNOW IT'S ONLY

BEEN A FEW DAYS, BUT DO YOU HAVE

ANY IDEA OR INCLINATION ABOUT

HOW YOU'RE GOING TO BE ABLE TO

IMPLEMENT SOME ACTUAL TANGIBLE

CHANGES THAT PEOPLE WHO ARE IN

PUBLIC HOUSING CAN FEEL?

>> LOOK, TO SPEAK BROADLY, YOU

KNOW, I'M CONFIDENT THAT A

DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENT AND A

DEMOCRATIC HOUSE AND A

DEMOCRATIC SENATE MEANS THAT WE

HAVE THE MAKING OF AN FDR, WE

HAVE AN HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY TO

GOVERN AS BOLD IN THE 2 1st

CENTURY AS FDR DID IN THE 20th

CENTURY.

IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, THERE'S

A WIDESPREAD RECOGNITION THAT

HOUSING IS INFRASTRUCTURE AND

PUBLIC HOUSING IS

INFRASTRUCTURE, AND SO I FEEL

LIKE WE HAVE AS STRONG OF AN

OPPORTUNITY AS WE EVER HAD TO

SECURE BILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN

FUNDING FOR PUBLIC HOUSING.

AS YOU KNOW, PUBLIC HOUSING IS

IN A STATE OF EMERGENCY.

IT'S BEEN SO SAVAGELY STARVED

WITH FUNDING AT THE HANDS OF THE

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT THAT IT HAS

THE CAPITAL NEED OF $40 BILLION

AND COUNTING.

THERE ARE TENANTS WHO ARE LIVING

IN MOLDY AND LEAKY CONDITIONS,

TENANTS WITH NO CONSISTENT HEAT

AND HOT WATER IN THE WINTER,

CHILDREN POISONED BY LEAD AND

THE EFFECTS OF LED POISONING

HAUNTS YOU FOR THE REST OF YOUR

LIFE.

SO THERE'S A HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

IN PUBLIC HOUSING THAT REQUIRES

BILLIONS OF DOLLARS, TENS OF

BILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN

REINVESTMENT IN PUBLIC HOUSING.

FOR ME, PUBLIC HOUSING LIES AT

THE INTERSECTION OF AFFORDABLE

HOUSING AND CLIMATE CHANGE.

LIKE WE SHOULD NOT SIMPLY

REBUILD PUBLIC HOUSING IN THE

SAME FORM, WE SHOULD REINVENT

PUBLIC HOUSING AS THE GREENEST

CITY IN AMERICA.

IMAGINE NYCHA WITH ENERGY

RETROFIT AND ROOFTOP SOLAR

PANELS AND ROOP FTOP HEATING

SYSTEMS?

NYCHA CAN BECOME A LABORATORY

FOR THE GREEN REVOLUTION IN

AMERICA.

>> OKAY.

WELL, ONE OF THE OTHER THINGS

YOU DID MENTION WAS THAT AMERICA

HAS A CHANCE FOR AN FDR MOMENT,

BECAUSE, OF COURSE, THE

DEMOCRATS NOW HAVE THE HOUSE AND

THE SENATE.

BUT AT THE SAME TIME THE SENATE

IS A THIN MARGIN.

I MEAN, IF YOU, AGAIN, WE

UNDERSTAND THAT MADAM VICE

PRESIDENT HARRIS WILL BE THE

DECIDING VOTE, BUT OTHERWISE

IT'S A 50/50 SPLIT AND THERE'S

STILL A FILIBUSTER THAT HAS TO

BE DEALT WITH, ET CETERA.

SO ARE YOU AT ALL CONCERNED THAT

THAT MIGHT GUM UP THE WORKS, I

GUESS, FOR LACK OF A BETTER

DESCRIPTION?

>> LOOK, I'M CAUTIOUSLY

OPTIMISTIC.

THE STRUCTURE OF AMERICAN

GOVERNMENT IS OFTEN CONDUCIVE TO

PARALYSIS AND GRIDLOCK.

HAVING SAID THAT, FOR ME THE

GREATEST OBSTRUCTION ON THE PATH

TO PROGRESS IS MITCH McCONNELL,

WHO HAS BEEN DETHRONED AS

MAJORITY LEADER.

WITH CHUCK SCHUMER AS MAJORITY

LEADER, WE'RE GOING TO PASS

LEGISLATION THAT OTHERWISE WOULD

LANGUISH IN THE SENATE.

THE SENATE IS NO LONGER GOING TO

BE A GRAVEYARD FOR EVERY

PROGRESSIVE PIECE OF LEGISLATION

THAT THE HOUSE PASSES.

LIKE THERE WERE BILLS, THERE

WERE ISSUES ON WHICH THERE WAS A

BICAM EARL, BIPARTISAN VOTE.

AND THAT IS NO LONGER THE CASE

BECAUSE HE'S NO LONGER THE

MAJORITY.

AND THERE WERE SOME SESSIONS

WHERE UNDER SOME CIRCUMSTANCES

IT ALLOWS YOU TO SIR VUM VENT

THE FILIBUSTER.

THE FILIBUSTER IS GOING TO BE A

CHALLENGE.

I'M IN FAVOR OF ABOLISHING IT.

BUT EVEN WITH THE FILIBUSTER I'M

IN FAVOR FOR EFFECTUATING CHANGE

FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.

EVEN IN THE LAST YEAR, WE

ENACTED THE TWO LARGEST STIMULUS

PACKAGES IN AMERICAN HISTORY.

IMAGINE WHAT WE CAN DO WITHOUT

THE OBSTRUCTIONISM OF MITCH

McCONNELL?

>> CAN I THINK THAT'S A LOT FOR

A LOT OF AMERICANS TO IMAGINE.

BUT SPEAKING OF GRIDLOCK IN

GOVERNMENT, YOU AS A FORMER CITY

COUNCIL MEMBER KNOWS POLITICS

THAT AFFECTS MOST PEOPLE'S LIVES

ARE GOING TO BE LOCAL POLITICS.

OF COURSE, WE'VE SEEN MAYOR de

BLASIO AND GOVERNOR CUOMO, LET'S

CALL IT JUST DISAGREE OVER THE

YEARS, OVER THE YEARS, OVER THE

YEARS.

WE HAVE ANOTHER MAYORAL RACE

UPON US AND FIRST OFF, WHAT I

WANT TO GET YOUR TAKE ON IS WHAT

DIFFERENCE A BIDEN

ADMINISTRATION MIGHT MAKE FOR

THE METROPOLITAN AREA BEFORE WE

EVEN GET TO THE MAYORAL RACE?

>> NEW YORK CITY HAS BEEN HIT

THE HARDEST BY COVID-19.

IT'S BEEN A CATASTROPHE FOR NEW

YORK CITY GOVERNMENT, FOR THE

BUSINESSES, AND FAMILIES OF NEW

YORK CITY.

NEVER IN THE HISTORY OF OUR

COUNTRY HAS NEW YORK CITY

GOVERNMENT AND NEW YORK STATE

GOVERNMENT AND THE MTA, PUBLIC

TRANSIT SYSTEM, ALL BEEN MFOUR

BEEN IN A FISCAL CRISIS AT THE

SAME TIME.

SO ONLY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

CAN PROVIDE A DEFICIT AND ONLY

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS IN A

POSITION TO SHORE UP OUR LOCAL

AND STATE GOVERNMENTS, WHICH AS

YOU SAID ARE AT THE FOREFRONT,

THE FRONTLINES OF IMPLEMENTING

PUBLIC SERVICES.

SO OUR HIGHEST PRIORITY SHOULD

BE TO STABILIZE LOCAL AND STATE

GOVERNMENT WITH EMERGENCY

FUNDING.

THERE'S NO QUESTION ABOUT IT.

>> WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO ENDORSE

FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

MAYOR YANG FOR MAYOR OF NEW

YORK?

>> SO I HAVE TO TREAD CAREFULLY,

I'M SPEAKING TO YOU IN MY

OFFICIAL CAPACITY, SO I WANT TO

BE CAREFUL NOT TO COMMENT ON

POLITICS, BUT HERE'S WHAT I WILL

SAY, I WILL COMMENT ANDREW AS A

PERSON.

ANDREW HAS BEEN THE SINGLE VOICE

IN AMERICAN POLITICS FOR A

UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME.

AND FOR ME HIS VISION OF UBI IS

ESPECIALLY POWERFUL IN A WORLD

OF DEPRESSION-LEVEL.

IN THE TSUNAMI BRONX WE'VE SEEN

A CABBAGE LOSS OF INCOME AND IN

THE WEST IT'SES AS HIGH AS 25%.

UBI WOULD BE A GAME-CHANGER FOR

THE FAMILIES IN MY DISTRICT.

ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL, AND I ASK

MYSELF WHAT IS BEST FOR THE

PEOPLE I REPRESENT?

AND HE CHAMPIONS POLITICS THAT

WILL LIFT PEOPLE OUT OF POVERTY.

I DON'T WANT TO COMMENT ON

POLITICS BUT I WILL COMMENT ON

HIS RECORD OF FIGHTING FOR THE

THINGS THAT MATTER.

>> THEN WITHOUT NECESSARILY

COMMENTING ON POLITICS, I DO

WANT TO ASK JUST IN TERMS OF

POLITICKING, DO YOU THINK THAT

CAMPAIGNING IN PERSON DURING A

PANDEMIC IS THE RIGHT WAY TO GO

ABOUT IT OR SHOULD CAMPAIGNING

EVERYTHING BE IN THIS SORT OF

ONLINE EXISTENCE THAT YOU AND I

ARE TALKING IN RIGHT NOW?

>> ZH AS LONG AS YOU'RE

FOLLOWING THE PROPER

PRECAUTIONS, AS LONG AS YOU'RE

WEARING A MASK AND MAINTAINING

SOCIAL DISTANCING, THEN THE RISK

OF TRANSMISSION IS MINIMAL.

SO AS LONG AS YOU'RE FOLLOWING

TO PUBLIC HEALTH GUIDELINES, YOU

CAN SAFELY CAMPAIGN OUTDOORS.

AND KEEP IN MIND TRANSMISSION

INDOORS IS MUCH -- PRESENTS A

MUCH GREATER RISK, MUCH MORE

COMMON THAN TRANSMISSION

OUTDOORS.

YOU REMEMBER FROM THE BLM

RALLIES FOLLOWING THE MURDER OF

GEORGE FLOYD, THERE WERE MASSES

OF PEOPLE ON THE STREET, AND

THERE WERE ALMOST NO CASES OF

COVID TRANSMISSION BECAUSE WE'VE

COME TO DISCOVER THAT

TRANSMISSION IN CLOSE

INTERACTIONS AND CRAMPED SPACES

IS MUCH MORE COMMON THAN

TRANSMISSION OUTDOORS WHEN

THERE'S SOCIAL DISTANCING AND

MASK ORDERS.

>> WELL, TURNING FROM THE

POLITICS OF THE MAYORAL RACE AND

JUST TURNING TO YOUR STORY

SPECIFICALLY, WHAT HAS THIS

TRANSITION BEEN LIKE GOING FROM

THE CITY COUNCIL TO CONGRESS?

I MEAN, IS THERE A SENSE OF --

ARE THERE THINGS THAT ARE

FAMILIAR?

IS IT ALL COMPLETELY DIFFERENT?

WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE BEEN

LIKE?

>> YOU'RE OPERATING ON A MUCH

LARGER STAGE.

YOU'RE NOT PAW PART OF A LEGISLE

THAT WAS ONCE HOME TO ABRAHAM

LINCOLN.

MY OFFICE WAS THE SAME OFFICE AS

JOHN F. KENNEDY DURING HIS TIME

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

MY FIRST SPEECH ON THE FLOOR OF

THE HOUSE CONCERNED IMPEACHMENT.

SO WHEN YOU'RE A MEMBER OF

CONGRESS, YOU FEEL THE WEIGHT OF

HISTORY ON YOUR SHOULDERS.

THERE HAVE BEEN ABOUT 130 LATINO

MEMBERS IN CONGRESS, ABOUT 160

BLACK MEMBERS IN CONGRESS, AND

NONE OF THEM WERE LGBTQ.

SO I BLAZED A NEW TRAIL FOR A

SEGMENT OF THE AMERICAN

POPULATION THAT MIGHT HAVE FELT

ALIENATED FROM OUR GOVERNMENT.

AND IT'S IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE TO

SEE THEMSELVES IN THEIR ELECTED

LEADERSHIP, TO FEEL INSPIRED, TO

BE POLITICALLY ENGAGED AND MAYBE

RUN FOR OFFICE ONE DAY

THEMSELVES.

THE SO I FEEL THE WEIGHT OF

HISTORY ON MY SHOULDERS.

IT'S AWE-INSPIRING AND

EMOTIONALLY OVERWHELMING.

AND I WILL TELL YOU, MY MOTHER

HAS NEVER BEEN MORE EXCITED

ABOUT WATCHING C-SPAN.

>> ALL RIGHT.

WELL, CONGRESSMAN RICTCHIE

TORRES, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR

JOINING US AGAIN.

WE LOOK FORWARD TO CONTINUING

CONVERSATIONS AND FOLLOWING YOUR

WORK ON ADVOCACY AND BILLS YOU,

OF COURSE, WILL BE PRESENTING TO

CONGRESS AND CHECK BACK IN

PERHAPS WITH YOU ON THE MAYORAL

RACE FOR NEW YORK CITY.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR JOINING

US.

>> ALWAYS A PLEASURE.

TAKE CARE.

>> IT ALL RIGHT.