State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, California’s newest member of Congress, was sworn in Tuesday afternoon at the nation's capital to represent the 34th Congressional District.
"I am truly honored to be here," Gomez said, in brief remarks after taking the oath of office. "As the son of immigrants who believes in this country, and everything it promises, I am a living embodiment of that promise."
Gomez won a special election on June 6 to fill the seat formerly held by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra representing a district that includes such Los Angeles-area communities as Echo Park, Highland Park, Koreatown and Boyle Heights.
The long transition has not been without controversy.
Gomez' journey from state Assembly to Congress has taken longer than some expected or wanted. Residents of the district have been without a U.S. representative since January when Becerra resigned.
The lengthy transition drew criticism from House GOP Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. In a letter to Gomez, House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of State Alex Padilla late last month, McCarthy pointed out that other members who recently won special elections were sworn in much faster.
McCarthy criticized Gomez — who is a Democrat — for delaying his move to Congress in order to help fellow Democrats in California’s legislature extend the cap and trade program. That program limits the state's carbon emissions and seeks to slow global warming. It's among Gov. Jerry Brown's legislative priorities.
"This unabashed play to politics is an abdication to participate in representative democracy," McCarthy wrote. He went on to say that, if the delay persisted, Gomez should resign.
In an interview with KPCC early Tuesday morning, Gomez defended the delay saying it occurred for a variety of scheduling reasons and that he had initially expected to be sworn in shortly after a planned June 15 vote on cap and trade that was then delayed.
"It was worth it, cause climate change is one of the top issues for the people in my congressional district,” Gomez said, adding that he helped with the negotiations of the bill to bring it closer to a vote.
“I’m glad to be here, I'm glad to get started, and I’m glad to represent the people of the 34th congressional district,” Gomez said.
Gomez referred to the controversy again after taking the oath Tuesday saying, "I also want to thank the Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy for all the attention he's given me for the last several weeks, thank you so much." The comment was greeted by laughs and jeers from fellow members.
Because the Democrats barely have the two-thirds supermajority vote in the state Assembly needed for passage of the cap and trade legislation, Gomez' presence was sought after.
As it turns out, the cap and trade vote will not occur until later. A spokesman for state Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said lawmakers are aiming to have the vote before the July 21 recess.
Gomez submitted his resignation letter on Friday, according to Freddie Quintana, Gomez’ Assembly seat chief of staff. The resignation became effective after the oath of office.
This story has been updated.