Waiting in Washington: Becca Balint Enters a House in Disarray | Politics | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

News » Politics

Waiting in Washington: Becca Balint Enters a House in Disarray


Published January 3, 2023 at 6:44 p.m.
Updated January 24, 2023 at 4:07 p.m.

Rep.-elect Becca Balint (D-Vt.), left, chatting with Rep.-elect Andrea Salinas (D-Ore.) on Tuesday - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Rep.-elect Becca Balint (D-Vt.), left, chatting with Rep.-elect Andrea Salinas (D-Ore.) on Tuesday
U.S. Rep.-elect Becca Balint (D-Vt.) was supposed to be sworn in on Tuesday. But during a lengthy afternoon of voting at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., the new Republican House majority failed three times to elect a speaker before adjourning for the day.

Until the chamber chooses a leader, members of the House can't be sworn in. As a result, Balint remains congresswoman-elect.

The House is expected to reconvene at noon on Wednesday.

It was the first time in a century that a candidate for House speaker — in this case, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — didn't earn enough votes to secure victory on the first ballot.

"As a historian, I find it fascinating," Balint told Seven Days after the House adjourned for the evening. "As an American, it's really disappointing. It's rule No. 1 in leadership that you don't bring something to the floor if you don't have the votes. McCarthy has known for weeks that he doesn't have the votes, so that was a colossal waste of time."

She noted that she and her fellow members of Congress won't start collecting a paycheck until the House is officially sworn in.

After weeks of haggling for votes, McCarthy could not secure the support of ultraconservative members of his party, a flop that exposed ideological divisions in the ranks of the chamber's slim Republican majority. Balint cast her votes for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who received more support than McCarthy in all three rounds of balloting.

Before the chaotic proceedings began on the House floor at noon, Balint spent a few harried moments with her family, including her parents; her wife, Elizabeth Wohl; and their two children, at her new office in the Longworth House Office Building. (Balint noted that Vermont’s "Freedom and Unity" seal, emblazoned on the plaque outside her door, was slightly askew.) 

She’d been too anxious to sleep the night before, she told Seven Days, which dispatched a reporter and a photographer to document her first week in Congress.

“I’d be nervous anyway, starting a new job, but this is next-level,” Balint explained. “It feels like when my kids were born or when I got married.”
Becca Balint on the House floor on Tuesday - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Becca Balint on the House floor on Tuesday
In a Tuesday morning interview with Gray Television, Balint addressed another cloud hanging over the Republican-led Congress: Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who flipped a Democratic seat with a largely fabricated personal story that included falsehoods about where he attended college, his work experience and his philanthropic ventures.

“He should step down,” Balint said. “He has no self-dignity. He clearly has no integrity. And it’s just not fair for his constituents in New York.”

Even amid the tumultuous backdrop of the unresolved Speaker vote, Balint on Tuesday stuck to the pragmatic refrain of seeking common ground with Republicans that she honed on the campaign trail. One of her first legislative priorities, she told WPTZ-TV during a morning interview blitz at the Capitol, will be addressing the country’s mental health crisis.

“If I can work across the aisle and find some connection with Republicans on the issue of mental health, that’s a victory,” she said. “That seems like an issue that is not partisan and where we ought to be able to make some investments.”

Earlier in the day, Balint said, the staffers of a fellow first-time member of Congress, a Republican, dropped by her office to welcome her.

“Does that mean we're going to be able to make legislation together? I don't know,” she told WPTZ. “But it's certainly a first step. That is who I've been as a state legislator, and I'm not going to lose that.”

There was more history on Tuesday in the Capitol's other chamber as retiring senator Patrick Leahy stood by and watched as U.S. Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) was sworn in. Welch, a former member of the House, won election in November to replace Leahy, a Democrat who served Vermont for 48 years.

Related Stories

Speaking of...



Comments are closed.

From 2014-2020, Seven Days allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we've appreciated the suggestions and insights, right now Seven Days is prioritizing our core mission — producing high-quality, responsible local journalism — over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.