In a historic day at the start of the 113th Congress, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) was sworn into office on Thursday as the junior U.S. senator from Wisconsin, officially becoming the first openly gay senator.
At a reception that followed in the Russell Senate Office Building, Baldwin thanked more the than 100 supporters and Democratic donors in attendance and called on them to continue the fight to enact change for the country.
“I am proud to have the honor to have been sworn in an hour or so ago as the first woman senator for the state of Wisconsin and as the first openly gay member to serve in the United States Senate in our nation’s history,” Baldwin said, eliciting huge applause from the audience.
Baldwin attended the reception after being sworn-in on the Senate floor by Vice President Joseph Biden along with other freshman senators and colleagues who were re-elected. The room erupted in cheers and applause as she entered following being sworn-in as a U.S senator.
Also attending the reception was Baldwin’s mother, Pam Bin-Rella. At Baldwin began to speak, Bin-Rella was standing with a cane near the podium before Baldwin. The new senator said she had to address a “little logistical matter” before she continued, then positioned a wheelchair nearby for her mother to take a seat.
“I’m going to thank you the best way that any public official knows how to thank you: I’m going to ask you to do more,” she continued. “As I ran to make a difference, I intend to make a difference. Just like nobody wins a Senate seat alone, nobody moves a state or a country forward alone.”
Baldwin was sworn-in on Thursday on the same day as the entire membership of the U.S. House for the 113th Congress. That includes openly gay Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.).
Introducing Baldwin at the reception was outgoing Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), whom Baldwin will replace in the U.S. Senate after his 24 years of service in Congress. Kohl said Baldwin has “all the qualities I, and I know, so many others look for in somebody to represent us all across the state of Wisconsin.”
“After I got elected, as a senator from Wisconsin, I got a phone call from my predecessor, Sen. [William] Proxmire,” Kohl said. “And he was effusive in his praise of me, and he predicted that I will be a model senator. He said that several times, and he was very careful in his use of words, so I couldn’t forget that he used the word ‘model,’ and I wondered why he used that word specifically. So, I went to the dictionary and looked up that word: ‘model — a model is a small replica of the real thing.’ So, I’m not going to tell Tammy that she’s going to be a ‘model’ senator.”
At the event, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin told the Washington Blade that Baldwin’s swearing-in as a U.S. senator “a real historic day.”
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