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Ayanna Pressley takes the oath

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley Acknowledges Historical Moment, Promises to Get to Work

190103 Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley on Inauguration Day
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley comments on the surreal feeling of preparing for her inauguration into office ahead of Thursday's swearing-in ceremony in Washington D.C.
Karen Marshal/WGBH News
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Ayanna Pressley takes the oath

This is a historic day in Washington D.C. as the 116th Congress prepares to enter power.

Later this afternoon the most diverse class of lawmakers in Congressional history is taking the oath of office. Democrats take control of the House, and with it, assume the investigative powers of Congress. Most expect House Dems to immediately use that power to investigate allegations that now President Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 election but also to look into widespread allegations of corruption across the administration.

Today also marks a historical moment for Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, who is officially becoming the first African American woman to represent Massachusetts in the House of Representatives.

WGBH's Morning Edition is on the road this week, reporting live from Washington D.C.. Morning Edition's Joe Mathieu is sitting down with multiple members of the state's Congressional Delegation to learn about their goals for what is shaping up to be a contentious final two years of an already unprecedented presidency.

Below is a transcript of Mathieu's conversation with Congresswoman Pressley in the halls of the Capitol on Wednesday.

Joe Mathieu: Last time I saw you we were in a temporary office space in the financial district and nobody was sure exactly how this was going to work out. You're here [in Washington D.C.] now.

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley: Well I'd like to think I'm not standing here alone. I mean it's no different than the primary or the general election day. Your name is on the ballot but you're representing so many more people than just yourself. So, I’ll be the one that will walk down that aisle runner and eventually I raise my hand and take an oath. But I don't do that alone. And it's also historic that this is an unprecedented number of women to be serving in the Massachusetts delegation. When you think about Nikki Tsongas, that was the election of the first woman in 25 years at that time.

Mathieu: When you consider the, honor of being sworn into Congress, who do you have in town with you to share this moment with and what's it going to be like for you when you raise your hand?

Pressley: You can't do this work alone. I have immediate family here, my husband Conan, my stepdaughter Cora, my father, and my stepfather. Then I also have my chosen family here and that is my dedicated “A team”- both city council, congressional, government and political side.

Then (I also have) many supporters who I'm so humbled that they would make the trek to come up and in fact several of my female colleagues on the City Council are also coming up. So many of them have lamented the fact that I only get two tickets for the formal swearing in at the capital. That is only for my husband and our daughter. So that's great. And my husband will be in the spouse gallery. But running simultaneously, we'll be having an office opening and swearing in viewing reception at my office in Longworth 1108.

Mathieu: It's kind of the big homecoming here for you though as you're moving back to Washington I know you're not a stranger to Capitol Hill. Have you found a place to live yet?

Actually I do have a temporary place, not a permanent place. I'm very grateful. And that's one of the things that we're finding I mean even my office designation that was made possible because of the camaraderie extended by a member of my class, Katie Hill from California, who swapped lottery numbers with me. I have a temporary place to stay, with a member whose child has gone off to college and they're going to allow me to take up that spare room for a little bit until I get my bearings and get settled and that's a member from Oregon, Susan Bonamici.

So, at every turn, including and especially with our own delegation: Katherine Clark, Richie Neal, Joe Kennedy, Seth Moulton- everyone I mean I don't want to leave anyone out. Every single person has extended themselves and offered counsel and to be a sounding board and offered friendship and really just helped in getting acclimated in this new landscape. And one of the things I'm very excited about is the Congressional Black Caucus has a separate swearing in. In our class alone nine new members will be joining that caucus.

Mathieu: There's a ceremonial portion to what's happening in the beginning of the new Congress. But there's also business to be had. From what we're hearing, you're going to move a couple of bills and be voting on your first day in Congress. You're arriving in the middle of a government shutdown.

Pressley: Well that's not good. But I say good in that we are getting to the business of governing Congress and the campaigns and the elections are all behind us now. And now it's head down focus on governing and improving the lives of the American people and of course I'm most focused on the Massachusetts 7th district. But I do understand that every vote that I take is much broader than the district that I was sent here to represent.

And so I'm excited to get to work in the process of governing. So please, you stay tuned. I've got a couple of some legislation I'm already working on that's in the queue. I'm excited to share that with folks. I came here to legislate and I'm excited to do that.

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