Sen. Welch takes oath; Balint swearing-in delayed by speakership feud

Tuesday’s historic GOP revolt that delayed the election of a new speaker also sidelined the swearing-in of Vermont’s new congresswoman.
Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 5:09 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 3, 2023 at 6:51 PM EST
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WASHINGTON (WCAX) - Tuesday’s historic GOP revolt that delayed the election of a new speaker, also sidelined the swearing-in of Vermont’s new congresswoman. But when Becca Balint does raise her right hand and take the oath of office, she’ll be making history as the first woman and openly LGBTQ person to serve the Green Mountain State in Congress.

Vermont former Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint boogied her way from the statehouse steps in Montpelier to Capitol Hill in Washington.

“I will just continue to be the person I’ve always been. I want Vermonters to always recognize me. That’s the person I was as a teacher... that’s who I was as a legislator and as a leader of the senate in Vermont. I want them to recognize me. And unfortunately, that’s not true for so many politicians in this country, so I might make headlines simply by being myself,” she said.

Since orientation in November, Balint says she’s been capitalizing on the opportunity to make connections. “I’m a teacher and I will always approach a room with -- who are these people, what makes them tick. And so I had a fantastic time getting to know people in my own caucus and a few people across the aisle. I’m going to continue to do that,” she said.

In Vermont, she’s focused on the housing and mental health crises. Balint says she and her colleagues are still working out the details but that she’s preparing to introduce a bill soon to invest in mental health resources. She also hopes to build on the progress made last session on gun safety and student loan forgiveness, although she recognizes as a freshman Democrat in a GOP-controlled House, finding common ground could be an uphill battle.

“Their leadership is only a few vote margin. They’re going to have to work with us. There are areas where we can come together because the American people are counting on us to not let partisanship get in the way,” Balint said.

As she settles into her new seat, Balint follows in the footsteps of fellow lawmakers who she looks to as her mentors. “Best piece of advice I got from Senator Sanders -- He says, ‘Becca, two words: Social media,’” Balint said.

She’s already heeding that advice, launching a new Twitter profile Tuesday. Her first post shows her smiling proudly by her plaque, now hanging in the halls of Congress.

The game of political musical chairs Tuesday ended on a high note. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy spent his last day on Capitol Hill standing by his successor, former Congressman Peter Welch. he says Welch says continuing Leahy’s legacy is a full-circle moment.

“It’s a thrill for me that he walked me down the aisle. My first political campaign in Vermont was 1974. I was a volunteer in Windsor County for Patrick Leahy -- who won as a Democrat for the first time in the U.S. Senate in Vermont,” Welch said.

“Keep your word and do what you say you’re going to do,” Leahy told Welch -- that’s the bible in the Senate. Welch says the key is also collaboration and respect.

Both Welch and Balint say they are determined to preserve democracy during a time when trust in the political process has declined.

Balint’s swearing-in ceremony, whenever it occurs, can be watched on C-SPAN.

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