Rep. Faso briefs press as his term winds down

WASHINGTON, DC–Congressman John Faso (R-19th) took some time away from packing up his office last week to talk by phone with a dozen reporters from around his district. Though he lost his bid for reelection last month to Democrat and now Representative-elect Antonio Delgado, Mr. Faso concentrated his remarks not on the election but on his accomplishments in his two-year term in the House of Representatives.

He said his most significant achievement was his role as lead sponsor of a provision in the federal STOP Act, which addresses the national opioid epidemic. That provision is intended to thwart shipments of the potent and frequently lethal opioid fentanyl to the U.S. from China through the U.S. Postal Service. The congressman said President Trump had tweeted about the congressman’s part of the larger bill, which the president signed into law just before the election. Mr. Faso was among the members of Congress who posed with the president at the signing ceremony.

Mr. Faso, who served in the state Assembly for 16 years and was GOP minority leader for four of those years, also recalled some of his attempts to make changes in state government during his term in Congress. He singled out his unsuccessful efforts to force the state to assume all Medicaid costs rather than continue to split those costs with the counties and about his campaign to revise the so-called Scaffold Law. He said the Scaffold Law holds contractors to a needlessly stringent standard of liability in gravity related injuries on construction projects. “It does not protect workers,” Mr. Faso said, adding that it was “just good for lawyers.”

Congressman John Faso (R-19th). Photo by Lance Wheeler

The Kinderhook congressman said he doesn’t know what he’ll do next. He expected to win “right up to 10 p.m. election night,” he said. But as the blue wave grew nationwide and Democrats approached a gain of 40 seats in the House, he knew his chance for reelection had faded.

Asked whether he attributed the loss of so many seats to the Democrats to the actions of President Trump, he said, “I do.” He said that the election results ought to be a “wake-up call for the president” and that while the president’s choices for the Supreme Court were “excellent” the president “ought to be concerned” with his party’s losses.

President Trump tweeted that Mr. Faso had lost because he had not invited the president to campaign for him.

Rep. Faso is a lawyer and said last week that if he did return to practicing law, he wouldn’t be taking personal injury cases covered by the Scaffold Law–he quickly added that he never has worked in that area of the law. He didn’t rule out another run for office.

In the bitter media campaign between Mr. Faso and Mr. Delgado some outside funded ads against Mr. Delgado were condemned as “race baiting” by The New York Times and similarly faulted by other newspapers, including The Columbia Paper. But Mr. Faso said, “I’m proud of the campaign.” He said he had not spoken to Mr. Delgado since conceding on election night but that his staff and Mr. Delgado’s had been coordinating on transferring constituent service cases that require follow-up.

As for what advice he would offer Mr. Delgado, Mr. Faso said, “Be true to your principles.”

He said the district faces many issues including what he described as “an exodus of jobs” from all of upstate New York. He listed his efforts to help farmers in the rural areas of his district. He expects the multi-year Farm Bill to come up for a vote soon and he said it would include some sections he had written, including one part that he said would prevent unfair competitions from imported dairy products marked as “organic” that don’t meet U.S. standards for that designation.

From the very beginning of his term, Mr. Faso was frequently confronted by demonstrators, including gatherings in front of his Kinderhook office, where opponents assembled for “Faso Fridays” after Mr. Faso declined to hold or attend town hall style meetings in the district.

“I met with a lot of those people,” he said, referring to the demonstrators. Some of the demonstrations disrupted government business, he said, but most of those he met with were “by and large respectful” and were “pursuing their First Amendment rights.”

Early in his term Mr. Faso joined with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House working on climate change legislation. He said most of the Republican lawmakers in that group had lost their seats in the November election.

Any legislation that would address climate change on a bipartisan basis would require compromise, he said, and as far as anything being accomplished on climate change, “I’m not optimistic,” he said.

Addressing the reporters on the conference call Mr. Faso said that it had been “a privilege to work with the press… at least most of you. I appreciate what you do. I recognize that the press is not the enemy of the people.”

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