LONGVIEW — It took a few days longer than expected for Washington’s newest member of Congress to take office.
Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez came to Washington D.C. with her husband and young son Jan. 3 so they could see her get sworn into the House of Representatives. Instead, the congresswoman was stuck in the first rounds of a four-day, 15-vote stalemate over the Speaker of the House election.
“I was honestly expecting a little bit of a circus but that exceeded my expectations,” Gluesenkamp Perez said in an interview Wednesday.
Gluesenkamp Perez was eligible to vote on who would become Speaker, but could not fully be sworn into office until that was finalized. In between her multiple votes for Dem. Hakeem Jeffries to become the Speaker, Gluesenkamp Perez said she spent those days talking to both fellow Democrats and moderate Republicans in the House about what was going to happen next. She was one of a handful of representatives who said they might support a moderate, bipartisan candidate for the role.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy eventually won a majority after midnight Saturday morning by wearing down the resistance of the far right-wing House Freedom Caucus. Despite the chaos of last week, Gluesenkamp Perez was still optimistic that she could find ways to work on bipartisan issues as the full session ramped up.
“I am still hopeful that reasonable people on both sides of the aisle can build a team. When the Freedom Caucus holds people hostage and holds the body hostage, it’s important that moderate Democrats are there to offer an off-ramp,” Gluesenkamp Perez said.
The new representative may already have to start thinking about the 2024 election. On Wednesday morning, last year’s leading Republican candidate Joe Kent announced that he was running for the House seat again in 2024 with a statement criticizing the first few votes Gluesenkamp Perez made as a House member.
“The moderate mask has fallen off and revealed a woke extremist,” Kent said.
Gluesenkamp Perez responded that she expected Kent to “run the same campaign of political extremism and division.” She won the Republican-leaning district in a narrow upset of Kent in November.
When the votes for Speaker wrapped up, Gluesenkamp Perez flew back to Washington to spend the weekend mudding with her family.
The final step for new House members is getting assigned to House committees. Gluesenkamp Perez said she was most interested in the agriculture and small business committees, both of which tied in to her roots in Skamania County. One of her big-picture was working on a “Right to Repair” bill that would make sure individuals and small businesses could repair their own vehicles instead of going through corporate owners.
Before her swearing-in, Gluesenkamp Perez was cited for her support of one of the last actions by her predecessor in the 3rd District, Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler. In December their offices and Sen. Maria Cantwell announced that the federal government was transferring 23 acres of land to Skamania County to help the local economy.