At ceremonial swearing-in, Pa. Rep. Deluzio says he’ll be ‘a fighter for western Pa.’

‘I didn’t expect to be fighting railroads and newspapers like it’s the trust-busting era, but here we are,’ Deluzio said

By: - February 23, 2023 7:54 pm

The ceremonial swearing-in of U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio, D-17th District,takes place at the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters on Thursday February 23, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/For the Pennsylvania Capital-Star).

PITTSBURGH — U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio D-17th District, held a ceremonial swearing-in his district on Thursday, telling a gathering at the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters hall in Carnegie that he was committed to bringing union jobs back to the area. 

“We need to attack, head on, the raw corporate power that is sucking the lifeblood out of our communities and our workers,” Deluzio said. “I intend to do exactly that. If you didn’t want a fighter for western [Pennsylvania], you sent the wrong guy to Washington.” 

The former University of Pittsburgh professor and Navy veteran has had to hit the ground running since taking office in January. 

He’s been an active supporter of the newsroom workers’ strike at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and sent a letter to the Department of Justice urging an investigation into the Post-Gazette owners’ acquisition of the formerly independent Pittsburgh City Paper. 

And on Feb. 3, a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, right over the Pennsylvania border, affecting communities in Deluzio’s district. He and other state and federal officials have pushed for Norfolk Southern to be held accountable.

“I didn’t expect to be fighting railroads and newspapers like it’s the trust-busting era, but here we are,” Deluzio told the Capital-Star. 

“Corporate power really is hurting the people I represent. And when they come to my people in my district as they have with the folks in Darlington Township who have been affected by the derailment, and the workers at the Post-Gazette, we stand up for those folks and try to do right by them,” the Democratic lawmaker said.

Deluzio said he feels a bit “conflicted” about what Democrats will be able to get done as the minority party in Congress. 

“In many ways we walked into Republican dysfunction, with the speaker election,” he said, referring to the contentious ascension of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., that took multiple ballots to complete. “And we’re not seeing much seriousness in terms of the basics of governing” with Republicans floating ideas about cutting Social Security only to later walk them back.

He said he had more optimism in his committee work; he is on the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs’ committees. 

“One of the first hearings we had on Armed Services was about the defense-industrial base. I sounded the alarm about consolidation of the industry there… that’s hurt our readiness, it’s hurt competition. And I’ve got Republican colleagues that share my concerns.

“I’m hopeful that there will be some places where we will be able to do some things for this country; I’m not naive enough to think we’re going to miss the partisan fights,” he continued. 

Deluzio did not take office with the kind of high profile that U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-12th District, a fellow first-time member of Congress did; Lee made headlines in 2018 when she unseated a longtime incumbent in Allegheny County’s 34th House District. But he said his constituents will get to know him by how he does the job. 

“The way that I introduce myself to my constituents is by doing the work,” he told the Capital-Star. “I didn’t plan to have my people in Beaver County have to be evacuated by a derailment, I didn’t plan for them to have to need their congressman to fight for federal resources to hold the railroad accountable. 

“But that’s the job and my highest priority every day,” he continued. “We’ll have other crises, I’m sure, in my time in Congress but the best way to show people who I am is showing them what I’m doing in Washington and here in the district.” 

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Kim Lyons
Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons is a veteran western Pennsylvania journalist who has covered people and trends in politics and business for local and national publications. Follow her on Threads @social_kimly