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Newly sworn-in Congressman Ritchie Torres talks political division, COVID-19 vaccine, public housing

Posted at 8:50 AM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-04 08:50:47-05

NEW YORK — It was an unprecedented swearing-in ceremony for new members of the 117th Congress.

Among the group was New York City’s Ritchie Torres, who became the first gay, Afro-Latino congressperson.

He spoke to PIX11 about the swearing-in ceremony, whether the division between the members of Congress will affect decision making and whether or not he will get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It’s an emotionally overwhelming experience,” he said.

“To see your name on the House plaque next to your office and to enter the House chamber for the first time and to recognize that you’re part of the same institution that was once home to Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy is an enormously gratifying and overwhelming experience.”

Growing up in public housing, Torres said while he’s in Congress, he will work to make sure public housing in New York City gets their fair share of funding and gets properly invested in.

Joining Congress during a time where the country is divided, Torres said he is open to partnering with anyone to tackle issues.

However, the attempt by the Republican party to overturn election results “is outrageous,” he said.

In terms of the COVID-19 vaccine, Torres said he was advised to take it to set an example for his communities, but addressed the concern that the vaccine rollout and distribution is not as quickly as expected.

“For most New Yorkers, a post-COVID world cannot soon enough” and said vaccines should be expedited, with priority to the most vulnerable population.