‘I’m so overwhelmed by that honor’
Beneath clouds of partisan rancor and a partial federal government shutdown, an upbeat 5th District Virginia Rep. Denver Riggleman on January 3rd was sworn into the most diverse Congress in U.S. history.
Christine Riggleman held an original 1789 copy of the U.S. Constitution beneath the Bible as her husband was administered the oath of office by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The rare copy of the Constitution, considered the world’s longest surviving written charter of government, was provided for Riggleman’s swearing-in by the Library of Congress.
“I’m so overwhelmed by that honor,” the freshman Republican told the Rappahannock News this week, pointing out that the 5th district’s first representative in Congress was none other than James Madison, who later became the 4th president of the United States. The original copy provided for his swearing-in was protected by a binder during the ceremony.
Sworn into office on the same day that Speaker Pelosi was handed back the gavel by House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Riggleman conceded that the current climate on Capitol Hill is “one of the most tumultuous times in politics in recent memory.”
The day’s ceremonies were further marred by outspoken remarks by one freshman Democratic lawmaker in particular, which drew the ire of Republican and Democrats alike. Riggleman described his own reaction as “experiencing firehose treatment.”
“It’s usually stated that, ‘My facts don’t care about your feelings.’ But what we have now in Congress is ‘My feelings don’t care about your facts.’ I’m trying to look at it rationally, but political emotional theater is what we are dealing with. It’s very frustrating.”
Still, the newly-elected congressman from Afton, Va., is anxious to get down to this district’s and nation’s business.
“Being in the minority we don’t control the schedule, we don’t schedule the votes . . . so we have to be on our toes,” he said of Republicans in the 116th Congress. “It’s going to be trial by fire, but I’m OK with it, I was in the military, I’m used to that.”
He opined that much of today’s debate over building a wall along the Mexican border, and the resulting partial federal government shutdown that’s followed in its wake — which impacts numerous constituents of Riggleman’s in the 5th district — is “political theatre.”
“We can move forward,” the Republican said with confidence, although he admits he doesn’t see it happening anytime soon.