A day later, Washington lawmakers, constituents still basking

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 21, 2009 

WASHINGTON -- A day after the inauguration, it was back to business on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a member of the Senate Finance Committee, attended Wednesday's confirmation hearing for treasury secretary nominee Timothy Geithner. Later, she and Washington state's other senator, Democrat Patty Murray, headed to the Senate floor for a roll-call vote on Hillary Clinton's nomination as secretary of state, demanded by a Republican senator.

On the House side, Rep. Norm Dicks was at a markup of a more than $800 billion stimulus bill before the House Appropriations Committee.

But before the hearing, the vote and the markup, the state's congressional delegation took one last opportunity to bask in the inaugural glow with about 200 constituents at a morning coffee.

"It's a time of great hope and great opportunity," said Murray, who hosted the coffee.

As a member of the Senate's Democratic leadership, Murray not only sat on the inaugural platform to watch Barack Obama take the oath of office, she attended an exclusive congressional luncheon for the new president and sat in his box in front of the White House during the parade.

Murray thanked those who traveled almost 3,000 miles to attend the inauguration.

"I can guarantee this is one time you are a part of history," she said.

But Cantwell also warned the coming months wouldn't be easy.

"We have great challenges, and that work begins today," she said.

Murray couldn't resist taking a lighthearted poke at Republicans, pointing out it was Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn who forced the roll-call vote on Clinton.

"They just can't get over it," she said.

Two of the state's three Republican representatives also attended, Dave Reichert and Doc Hastings.

Reichert took an incoming shot during the question and answer period when he was asked whether he was onboard the new spirit of bipartisanship.

Before responding he smiled and hugged Cantwell and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash, one of the most liberal members of the House.

"Yes, I am onboard," Reichert said. "I don't care if you are Republican, Democratic, independent or disinterested, yesterday will go down in history. We have to come together and remember we are all Americans."

Many of those at the coffee had attended the Western States Inaugural Ball on Tuesday night.

"I'm exhausted," said Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma, who took the opportunity to do a little lobbying for a downtown Tacoma revitalization plan to help keep Russell Investments from moving.

But the coffee also gave the non-elected who attended the inauguration a chance to talk with and have their pictures taken with the lawmakers.

Army Spec. Jay Navas, who served at Fort Lewis with the 1-23 Infantry, Bravo Company, and has fought in Iraq and is about to be deployed to Afghanistan with a different unit, said he watched the inauguration from a bar after he couldn't get through the crush at a security checkpoint.

"It was a phenomenal day for Americans," Navas said. "It felt good to be part of that."

Retired teachers Scott and Pamela Woodward of Richland joked they were among the few Democrats who live east of the Cascades, but in the spirit of bipartisanship they secured inaugural tickets from Republican Hastings. Scott Woodward said he had worked at an Obama phone bank during the campaign and some of those he called were downright nasty.

Even so, Scoot Woodward said, "we needed to be here for the moment. It was almost spiritual."

Sarah Bulley of Puyallup just returned from a Peace Corps stint in Mozambique, where she cast an overseas ballot for Obama.

"All the people I saw out there who helped to make this change inspired me," she said.

Steve and Sue Ellen Nichols of Tacoma made reservations to attend the inauguration even before election night.

"I would've had a hard time dealing with it if (John) McCain had been elected," said Sue Ellen Nichols.

Steve Nichols said the week has been a "once in a lifetime experience."

McClatchy Newspapers 2008

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