News & Politics

A Q&A with Chris Deluzio, one of Pennsylvania’s newest members of Congress

The Democrat talks with City & State about his first few months in office, the looming debt limit debate and labor relations in Pittsburgh.

Deluzio is currently serving his first term in Congress representing Pennsylvania’s 17th district.

Deluzio is currently serving his first term in Congress representing Pennsylvania’s 17th district. Chris DeLuzio

Chris Deluzio didn’t enter Congress at the most normal time.

Like many other freshman lawmakers, his official swearing-in ceremony was delayed due to a protracted vote for Speaker of the House that left people across their nation glued to their TVs for days. Then, within a matter of weeks, a train derailment near the Pennsylvania-Ohio border prompted the freshman lawmaker to partner up with California U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna on railroad safety legislation.

City & State spoke with Deluzio about his first three months in Congress, touching on everything from his unpredictable first week to how discussions about the national debt should go down. You can find highlights from our conversations with the congressmember below. 

This conversation has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

On the days-long vote for speaker of the House that delayed legislative business: 

The chaos of the speaker election – that Republican dysfunction that we saw through 15 rounds of voting – was disappointing, of course. It deprived this country of a functioning House of Representatives for several days. This is the longest speaker election since before the Civil War. It meant we couldn't respond to a natural disaster or some crisis, we couldn't name a post office, we couldn't do any business in committee or otherwise. It had a real impact on the people's business in the House. 

It was as crazy as I'm sure it looks to folks who were watching it at that early hour on TV.
– Chris Deluzio on his first week in Congress

On what he’ll remember from that first week:

I had my kids with me on the floor. We were allowed to bring our young children on the floor for this swearing-in and they didn't make it to 1:45 a.m. or whatever it was in the morning on Saturday, but I had them there for a day or so, which was a really nice thing and, I hope, a nice memory for them. 

I will say – watching the chaos of round after round of failed votes for now-Speaker McCarthy – it was as dramatic as it probably seemed to folks watching at home. 

I will, of course, always remember sitting there doing that and seeing the contrast with the Democratic unity behind Hakeem Jeffries. We were ready to do this basic thing and elect a speaker and get to work. I think the repeated votes, the floor speeches railing against Mr. McCarthy – it was just dysfunction for all to see, and certainly culminated in the high drama before that last vote – McCarthy strolling across the floor of the House to confront Matt Gaetz. Seeing the near-violence break out (among) Republican members – it was wild to watch. 

On the East Palestine train derailment: 

Norfolk Southern’s greed and incompetence came to the door of the folks that I represent in Beaver County, right across the state line from East Palestine. People are scared. They're worried about the long-term impacts, if any, there might be on their health, on their businesses, lots of farms in that part of Beaver County – and they're mad at the railroad. They don't want this to keep happening and they want to be made whole for the pain and harm that this railroad has caused and might cause for years to come. 

I'm trying to do everything I can to address all of that. The thing that I can push to do in Congress more than anything else is to improve safety around freight travel – around trains. 

On how his military experience will translate to Congress:

One of the caucuses I’ve joined – the For Country Caucus – is a bipartisan group of members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans – all who served. I think with a slim Republican majority right now that has, frankly, a lot of members who don't seem interested in governing, those kinds of groups are gonna have an important role to play working across the aisle to get some things done to make our government function. So, I think my military service and my outlook as a veteran is an important piece that I bring for western Pennsylvania to the Congress. 

On the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette strike and Block Communications’ purchase of the Pittsburgh City Paper: 

I want the Justice Department to investigate whether the Post-Gazette’s owners – Block Communications, in buying the City Paper – are violating antitrust law. Our media landscape, like a lot of other places in the country, has been heavily consolidated. This acquisition, I fear, further consolidates it, especially in the hands of an ownership that has been pretty aggressively working to crush their union and their workers. 

Not only does it give them more power in the local labor market, it limits the voices and perspectives you might hear in our region in the news. This is something we're seeing across the country and now right here in western Pennsylvania, so I want the Justice Department to investigate, scrutinize this transaction and see whether any laws have been broken, and if so, they have to unwind the deal to protect competition.

On how to address the nation’s debt limit: 

I think it should be raised. These are bills that Republicans, the prior administration, have already authorized. Spending has already been authorized, tax levels have already been authorized. This is just a part of making sure we maintain our full faith in the credit of the United States. I don’t think Republicans should play politics with it. I haven’t seen a plan. There have been proposals on the Republican side to cut social security and Medicare, proposals to go after veterans benefits, but I haven't seen a plan and they haven't made one public.

And until they do, I don't think there's any negotiation to be had. The president and Democrats are at a pretty basic position …  If you want to have debates around the budget, let's do that. This is not the place to do it and risk tanking the U.S. economy.

On how to combat China’s influence on the world stage: 

I think it starts with recognizing that we are in pretty serious strategic competition with the Chinese Communist Party – diplomatically, economically, militarily. The fact that they so flagrantly violated our sovereignty and put this balloon over American airspace demonstrates that. But it's not just something in the last few months. We've been in economic competition for way too long and for just as long, people in Washington did not understand that, and were willing to ship our manufacturing and supply chains all over the planet, including Communist China. 

If we learned something in the pandemic, it was that relying on the autocratic whims of the Chinese Communist Party for critical materials, for manufacturing, for so much more supply chain – that was a mistake. I'm heartened to see some bipartisan awareness of that, to want to bring back more of our domestic manufacturing, to understand that it is, at best, a security threat to rely on Communist China for so much of this. 

On his voting record: 

I'm going to explain my positions to people as best I can. After the first week of real votes, we recorded a video in my office and I explained what happened that week on the floor, what the votes were, how I voted – I think people deserve that in a representative. 

I'll do my best – whether it’s talking to the media, or direct to camera on my social media or through newsletters and things we communicate to the district – to make sure people know what their representative is doing, why I'm voting the way I am, and certainly that they know they can call and tell me they disagree or agree every single time.