A historic number of diverse representatives were sworn into the 116th Congress on Jan. 3, with more than 100 women taking office. WGBH's Morning Edition is on the road in Washington D.C. again, where we've been bringing you conversations with members of the Massachusetts delegation. Rep. Lori Trahan, one of two freshmen lawmakers from Massachusetts, joined Morning Edition anchor Joe Mathieu to discuss her first day on the job. The following transcript has been edited for clarity.
Joe Mathieu: It was a very personal experience yesterday, and we were in the House chamber as you were sworn in. For all of you who brought family and friends to the swearing in, we were there and saw you were joined by your two young daughters and I'm wondering: What did they think?
Rep. Lori Trahan: I can't say that they loved the long session but they were in and out. But my 8-year-old Grace, she really understands, you know, what's happening. And so that's tremendous when you can have her along for the ride. It's a true teaching moment for you know your daughters. My 4-year-old was a little bit fidgety. But it was, for me, so rewarding and gratifying to have them there and be part of that historic session.
Mathieu: Well I'm sure whether it's fun for a young child to sit in the house for hours on end it's something that they will never forget it, and I'm sure that's the case for you. It's been a real week of contrasts here in Washington, hasn't it? You were sworn in in the midst of a government shutdown.
Trahan: Yes. It's never happened before.
Mathieu: So does that inspire you to work? Or does it frustrate you? Or both?
Trahan: No, it motivates you to get to work which is I think exactly what we did. You know, right after being sworn in, we stayed in session to take the votes necessary to open up the government. And I was proud that the Democrats acted like the adults in the room and made that the number one priority. I was home during the holiday and I sat with air traffic controllers. I sat with federal employees who have been furloughed or have been asked to work or forced to work without pay. And we have to stop doing this. We have to stop using hardworking men and women as bargaining chips in these in these negotiations.
Mathieu: Frustrating to see this happen, of course, in the Merrimack Valley where as we were reporting this morning the investigation into the gas fires is apparently on ice until the government's reopened again. How much does that concern you?
Trahan: Absolutely. That investigation is so important, not just to the people of the Merrimack Valley, but also to every community that has a pipeline underneath it. We have to wring out all the lessons. And we have to be quick on that so that we you know we enforce best practices and we make sure that our pipelines are safe. So, it's incumbent on elected officials to do their job. It's incumbent on us so that we don't lose trust in the people we're here to represent to do our basic function, which is to keep the government open. So I'm hopeful that we'll negotiate a deal very soon and get people back to work.
Mathieu: If that goes on indefinitely - for weeks, for months - we've got a president who is showing no signs of being willing to negotiate beyond the wall. What do you do at a certain point when the government's closed for a record length of time?
Trahan: Yeah I look I think we have to appeal to Republicans in the House, Republicans in the Senate to do the right thing. I mean the reality is, what we voted on last night was exactly what passed the Senate back in December. And we know that there is support for opening up those agencies those agencies, and continuing our negotiations on the Department of Homeland Security and border security. So you know it's not like the Democrats tried to pull a fast one last night; we just wanted to get the government open. We debated and we ended up passing the same exact proposal that passed the Senate. So I think we have to appeal to Senate Republicans at this point and try to get a deal done, because it's unclear what this president actually wants. It changes a lot. He has over the last two years put people at the center of his negotiations, whether it's dreamers, whether it's federal employees whether it's people who come to our country looking to come in and seek asylum. And it's just an unfair and shameful way to govern.
Mathieu: We're talking with Congresswoman Lori Trahan on WGBH's Morning Edition as we join you live from Washington today, enjoying her first full day as a member of Congress. A lot has been said about the diversity in this Congress and the fact that there are a record number of women. You're one of them. Is that something that you feel or are you simply trying to do your job? The historic nature of this Congress.
Trahan: No, you could not sit in yesterday's chamber and not feel the special moment that we all know we're a part of. I was reminded that it was in 1918 that women received the right to vote. And 100 years later we have 102 women serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. We elected a woman speaker, and so many of us brought our children and she welcomed them up onto the dais as she took her oath. And and it really did feel like we were taking an oath for the future, and I think that is as a result of having so many women, a record number of women sitting in the chamber. I sat there as a mom; I sat there as a daughter to a union ironworker; I sat there as someone who grew up in a working class family. And I as I looked around and I saw all the diversity and all the voices that this chamber will hear over the next year. I was just overwhelmed and optimistic at what we can achieve.
Mathieu: Well Congresswoman that's why we came here. And we congratulate you on your election, on your swearing in and being a part of this historic Congress.
[Note: In her interview, Rep. Trahan referenced women gaining the right to vote in the U.S.. The House of Representatives passed a measure granting women the right to vote in 1918, but the amendment to the U.S. Constitution was not ratified by the states until 1920. This transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity].