WASHINGTON — Nevada’s own Catherine Cortez Masto became the first Latina to serve in the Senate on Tuesday as lawmakers convened for the 115th Congress.
Republicans continued to control both the House and Senate and vowed to use their majorities to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care program when President-elect Donald Trump takes office on Jan. 20.
The Senate opened on a historic note as Cortez Masto, a former Nevada attorney general, was escorted by outgoing Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Dean Heller, who becomes the state’s senior lawmaker in the august chamber.
She told reporters after the taking the oath of office that she was well aware of her status as the first Latina to serve in the Senate.
“It’s important to have a voice at the table and to use it,” Cortez Masto said.
Cortez Masto succeeds Reid, who stepped down following three decades of service to the state of Nevada in the House and Senate.
Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York thanked Reid, whom Schumer called “my friend for life.”
Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., gaveled the House into sessions where Republicans immediately backed off an effort to gut an independent ethics office following criticism from Trump and Democrats.
The independent ethics office was created after the scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Trump used social media to voice his displeasure early Tuesday and the House reversed course.
On his Twitter account, Trump questioned why House Republicans were making the ethics office “their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, health care and so many other things of far greater importance!”
House Republicans voted to step back from their previous vote on a rules package that was taken behind closed doors Monday. The proposal would have placed the independent ethics watchdog office under the House Ethics Committee, which is overseen by lawmakers.
Tuesday also included the swearing-in of lawmakers in the House, including newly elected congressional members from Nevada.
Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., were both given the oath of office.
Kihuen, whose 4th Congressional District includes Nye County, became the first Latino to represent the state of Nevada in the House.
A former Reid aide and rising Democratic politician, Kihuen defeated first-term Rep. Cresent Hardy, a Republican, to win the congressional seat.
Born in Mexico, Kihuen said “it’s my job to continue to fight to make life better for working families and people like my parents, so that everyone has a fair shot at the American dream.”
Rosen and Kihuen join Reps. Dina Titus, a Democrat, and Mark Amodei, a Republican, in the Nevada congressional delegation.
Contact Gary Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.