By Kate Lisa
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik expects congressional hearings will be held to investigate the cause of the Norfolk Southern train that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, adding Friday the federal response under President Joe Biden must be part of the probe.
Stefanik, the House GOP conference chair, has blasted Biden and his administration for a delay in response after a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous materials on the Norfolk Southern Railway, derailed Feb. 3.
“I anticipate there will be congressional hearings on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which of course, is chaired by Republicans in the Republican majority,” Stefanik said Friday. “And we’re going to get to the bottom of it to make sure all questions are answered and to stand up for safety.”
The North Country congresswoman spoke with reporters at a ribbon-cutting for her new congressional district office in Rensselaer County.
She continued her criticism of the president’s lack of response to the crisis Friday.
“He has ignored this horrific accident and the fact that there was little to no response from the administration,” she said. “…It’s absolutely outrageous.”
She noted U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican who represents that represents that area of Ohio, is furious about the lack of action from the U.S. Department of Transportation and local officials dismissing the issue.
Stefanik said the state’s Republican delegation support her SERVE our Community Act introduced last month as a counter to New York’s bail reform laws and an incentive for states to not adopt similar statutes. The new House bill would make states without laws that expanded pre-trial release for certain criminal offenses eligible for $10 million anti-recidivism grants through the U.S. Department of Justice. States must also take action to hire or retain law enforcement officers to be eligible for the funding.
The congresswoman said she’s confident it will advance to the floor later this session.
“The way Democrats in Albany pushed through bail reform, they ignored law enforcement — there was not a sheriff in my district that was included in that discussion,” Stefanik said. “They were dismissed, and the SERVE Act provides that input and provides grant money to move away from failed bail reform and to allow judges to have that discretion when it comes to dangerousness when it comes to releasing our community.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul included changes to state bail laws in her executive budget released earlier this month, proposing to end the “least restrictive” standard she says will give judges clarity in making decisions to set cash bail for serious or violent criminal charges.
Stefanik on Friday said she continues to review legislation to make the AR-15 the national weapon of the United States and would not take a position on the proposal introduced last week.
Long Island Republican U.S. Rep. George Santos co-sponsors the measure. Santos is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee and the state attorney general’s office after reports he falsified much of his resume in the last election cycle.
“I haven’t looked at the specific language of that bill, but you can look at numerous bills that I’ve co-sponsored and been one of the leaders on when it comes to standing up for Second Amendment rights,” Stefanik said. “…I represent Republicans, Democrats and independents who are law-abiding gun owners.”
The congresswoman also doubled down on her comments about Santos and the federal and state probes related to the embattled congressman. Several Republicans and constituents who voted for Santos have called for his resignation.
“This is going to play itself out,” Stefanik said. “It’s not the first time that a member of Congress has been under investigation. Whether it’s a federal investigation or an Ethics Committee investigation. George voluntarily stepped down from committees. I supported that decision. And ultimately, the voters will decide when the election comes up.”
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