WASHINGTON — The last words Chip Cravaack said before he walked onto the House floor for the first time as a member of Congress were to a nearby reporter: “I’m ready.”
He’d gotten to his new Washington office, in the fifth floor of the Cannon House Office building before 7 a.m. There was a meeting with interim Chief of Staff Rod Grams, then meetings with staff, a welcome luncheon thrown for him by the rest of the Minnesota delegation and in between a constant stream of well-wishers saying congrats, House staff helping set up the office (still very much unfinished) and lobbyists making the rounds to say hi.
At noon, the moment finally arrived. He stepped into the hallowed chamber and cast his first vote, for new Speaker John Boehner. And so began the congressional career of Chip Cravaack, the first Republican to represent the 8th District and the Iron Range in more than half a century.
Cravaack will take his first huge votes next week, when he’s pledged to vote to repeal the recently-approved health care law. Already the first opposition press release has come, from the state DFL.
“It’s less than an hour into his term in Congress, but it’s already clear what kind of Representative Chip Cravaack will be,” DFL spokeswoman Kristin Sosanie wrote, “a tea partier more concerned about right-wing politics than the welfare of his constituents.”
Late in the afternoon was a ceremonial swearing in, where Cravaack, his wife, kids and parents smiled next to Boehner as Cravaack recreated his swearing in for the cameras. After that, a celebratory dinner at Capitol City Brewing Company, a brewpub on the Senate side of Capitol Hill near Washington’s iconic Union Station.
“It was informative, it was hectic, it was wonderful,” Cravaack said.