Orange County Congressmen Are Sworn In
Orange County’s two new Republican congressmen, C. Christopher Cox of Newport Beach and Dana Rohrabacher of Lomita, were sworn in Tuesday in a Capitol ceremony nearly 2 centuries old.
Cox, 36, a former White House lawyer, said he was feeling grateful as he rose from his seat in the House of Representatives and raised his hand to take the brief oath of office along with his new colleagues.
“You think of all the people who are responsible for putting you where you are,” Cox said of the supporters for his long-shot bid to represent the 40th District, one of the nation’s most securely Republican. “You don’t feel like someone who set a new record in a track event because you didn’t do it by yourself.”
Rohrabacher, 41, said the thought going through his mind was: “This is it, and I’m ready!” He said he had viewed Congress from California as a journalist and from the White House as a speech writer for President Reagan and now found it “not just exciting but fascinating to get the view from inside, from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.”
The two men took the oath amid a telegenic sea of red ties, white shirts and dark suits punctuated by an occasional bright red or royal blue dress worn by one of the few women members of the House. Also on the floor were many children who, wearing floor passes tied around their necks with bright red ribbons, were allowed to join their parents for this one special occasion.
Cox and Rohrabacher, both bachelors, each defeated a wide field of GOP candidates to win their party’s nominations in their districts, which are so predominantly Republican that the winner of the June primary easily wins the general election. Both positioned themselves to the right of their competitors and, as a trump card, brought in retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, a hero to conservatives despite his indictment in the Iran-Contra scandal, to campaign for them.
Cox Replaces Badham
Cox replaces Rep. Robert E. Badham (R-Newport Beach) of the 40th District, which stretches inland from Newport Beach, and Rohrabacher succeeds Daniel E. Lungren (R-Long Beach) of the 42nd District, which straddles Orange and Los Angeles counties.
Badham, who served on the House Armed Services Committee, retired after 12 years to be a private consultant to defense firms. Lungren, who was first elected to the House in 1978, left office after Gov. George Deukmejian chose him as state treasurer to replace Jesse M. Unruh, who died in 1987. Lungren failed to be confirmed by the state Legislature and now is returning to private practice as a lawyer.
At noon here, in brisk sunshine, Cox and Rohrabacher began their first day in Congress by walking from their new offices in the Cannon and Longworth House office buildings across the street to the Capitol. The 2-hour session began with an invocation and moved to the first vote of the 101st Congress: the election of Speaker of the House.
At 12:42 p.m., Cox cast the first vote of his congressional career for House Minority Leader Bob Michel of Illinois. Eighteen minutes later, in the alphabetical roll call vote, Rohrabacher followed suit. But the outcome of the vote was predetermined in the Democrat-controlled House, which reelected Jim Wright of Texas 253 to 170.
As the hourlong speakership vote took place, Cox and Rohrabacher joined in the general hubbub, meeting members of Congress on the Republican side of the aisle whom they did not know and greeting those they had previously met. At several points, the commotion from this shared activity became so rambunctious that the gavel was struck in vain efforts to restore order.
When the vote was completed, Wright delivered a message in which he made a strong plea for bipartisanship, especially in foreign matters. He then asked the members of the 101st Congress to raise their hands to swear their dedication to their country and their duties for the next 2 years.
Also sworn in were Orange County’s three other congressmen, Robert K. Dornan of Garden Grove, Ron C. Packard of Carlsbad and William E. Dannemeyer of Fullerton.
As he took the oath, and during the previous 2 hours, Dornan carried around the sometimes-sleeping Haley Olivia Dornan, his granddaughter. Dornan later reported that the child, who will be a year old in a few days, took her first step on the Speaker’s table.
After the ceremony, Rep. Cox returned to his newly occupied office, still strewn with unopened boxes and stacked with furniture, for a reception for about 40 friends that included many of his co-workers from his 2 years as senior associate counsel in the White House. They congratulated him while munching on turkey and ham sandwiches and drinking coffee and soft drinks.
Joined by Parents
Joining in the celebration was Rohrabacher and his parents, Doris (Fluff) and Don Rohrabacher of Temecula, and girlfriend Paula Dobriansky, a deputy assistant secretary of state for human rights whom he met while writing speeches in the White House.
Cox said his family, including his parents and four sisters and their families, most of whom live in Minnesota, will attend the Jan. 20 inauguration, thus they did not make the trip to the Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony.
Still ahead for the two new congressmen are vying for committee assignments and organizing their staffs in both Washington and their home districts. But Tuesday was mostly a day to enjoy the fruits of victory.
Cox, pointing to the round red lapel pin of the 101st Congress, said what struck him the most about his first day was “the entire experience of being clearly identified as a member of Congress by this badge and being treated as such by all of my colleagues.”
He added: “It was nice to be on the job.”
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