U.S. Representative Gabriel Vasquez Representing New Mexico District Sworn In? Chaos in the House

A new congressional term began Tuesday as members of the 118th Congress were set to be sworn in while questions remain over whether House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy can get enough votes to be elected speaker of the House.  

In a press release from U.S. Representative Gabriel Vasquez office and a post on his website; its confirmed that members were sworn into the United States House of Representatives January 3rd, 2023.  https://vasquez.house.gov/media/press-releases/taking-oath-office

However, constitutionally there would be a question to the legitimacy of a swearing in, if it occurred, prior to the election of a speaker. So not to pars words, so to speak, but each member at this point has taken an oath, however the official ceremonial swearing in of congress for the official record can’t officially happen without a speaker in place. 

The first official act of the House in a new Congress is to elect a speaker, and no other member of the House can be sworn in before that happens. The speaker of the House, in addition to deciding what comes to the floor for a vote, is, per the Constitution, second in line to succeed the president. The speaker is in line behind the vice president. Adding to the urgency, the chamber cannot move forward with any legislative business until a speaker is elected. No committees can be formed, no committee chairs or rules agreed upon and no legislation can move forward or any action by the House until a leader is selected.

At noon, the clerk of the House raised the gavel for the 118th Congress and call a quorum or call for the minimum number of members that must be present for business to be done.

Candidates for speaker are nominated by each party’s caucus or conference. 

On Tuesday, Democrats united placed New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries’ name into nomination. Republicans as expected placed Kevin McCarthy’s name into nomination.

No rule requires the nominee to be an elected member of the House, according to Article I, Section II of the Constitution. 

Prior candidates nominated for the position who were not members of the House when they were nominated include former Sec. of State Colin Powell, Georgia politician Stacy Abrams and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky.

After nominations are offered, the speaker is elected by roll call vote. A candidate must receive a majority of the votes cast to become speaker. If all members of the House are present and voting, the majority is 218 votes.

If all the members are not present, it is a majority of the members present and voting who selects the speaker. If no candidate wins a majority, the roll call is repeated until a speaker is elected.

In 1849, the House was in session 19 days without being able to elect a speaker, with no candidate having received a majority of the votes cast. The House voted 59 times before it adopted a resolution that declared that the speaker could be elected by a plurality – the person who receives the most votes even if it is not a majority.

In 1856, the same thing happened except the House had 129 votes before declaring the candidate could be elected by a plurality.

Republicans faced a leadership drama as they took control of the House on Tuesday and the first of them governing the new house showed a house in disarray, upsetting moderates and many Republican donors across the nation. 

As the 118th Congress convened, the first order of business in the chamber was the election of a new speaker — and current Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is so far being stymied by a group of hardliners demanding concessions. The House voted three times for speaker and McCarthy could not garner the 218 votes required. In the third round of voting, 20 Republican lawmakers voted against McCarthy for speaker: the highest amount so far. Those votes went to Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.

In the first two rounds, 19 Republicans voted for a different candidate. Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., voted for McCarthy two times before changing his vote to Jordan.

McCarthy received 202 votes in the latest round, making it the third time he’s trailed Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. Democrats had already elected Jeffries to be their caucus leader in the new Congress.

To win the gavel, McCarthy needs a majority of the members-elect who are present and voting. But because the GOP holds only a five-seat advantage, a small number of defections is stopping McCarthy from gaining the office he’s long sought.

The House can conduct no other business until a speaker is chosen. For the first time in a century, the vote is requiring multiple rounds and now, multiple days.  

An interesting fact: McCarthy has so far gotten fewer votes to be speaker in each round on Tuesday than he did when the last Congress convened in 2021. In 2021, when Republicans were in the minority, McCarthy got 209 votes from every Republican voting. In the three rounds Tuesday, with voting continuing, he got 203, 203 and 202.

So, for newly elected New Mexico Representative, Gabe Vasquez; he was a part of history and got to witness history as an active participant. Today showed just how messy the art of democracy can truly be. 

A Gas Mask and an Atomic Vault protected Democracy 1-6-2020, But will Democracy Prevail?

The events in the capital raised an amazing memory from my teen years.

When in student congress, several years ago, we toured the capital, held a session of student congress, and I sat at then Congressman (Jim) James Ralph Sasser’s desk, since I represented Tennessee as a student legislative representative.

I dropped my pen and found a bag attached to my seat. Congressman Sasser’s aid laughed and said don’t touch that, “it’s a relic of the Cold War period, masks are provided to every member of the house and senate while on the floor and in their offices as a safety precaution in the event of terrorist attack or a gas attack by the Russians.”

Photo of the old Cold War era Congressional Gas Mask found on authorchrisedwards.com written blog

Imagine my shock, 30 plus years later, when I watched the news and watched members of congress sustain a domestic terrorist attack, and hear the order for members of congress to huddle to the floor, and to place on their masks.

Here are some facts on the masks on the capital floor protecting our legislative leaders of the 21st Century. Those relics or masks are a bit different than the ones I reviewed but the need apparently remains the same – the safety of our legislative representatives from attack foreign and sadly domestic.

The Scape CBRN 30 escape respirator.Photo on the website AuthorChrisEdwards.com of present masks is provided by Popular Science of The Scape CBRN 30 escape respirator used by congress now.

Sadly that horrific day what we as Americans say as an example was David Trone, a Democratic congressman from Maryland, tweeting on January 6, saying, “I am safe. We have been evacuated.” The tweet included three images of the eye-catching pieces of protective equipment. While they’ve been referred to as gas masks, they’re technically known as escape hoods.

Sometimes also called escape respirators, these hoods serve a key purpose: to allow an untrained civilian to quickly and safely get away from an area that may have a chemical, biological, or even radiological or nuclear threat present.

These specific hoods were made by ILC Dover, according to Doug Durney, the product line manager for that company’s PPE gear.

Here’s what they do, and how they work.

When you open it from its case, it automatically comes on. A fan system pulls air through filters—both a HEPA filter as well as a carbon one—and then fills the hood with clean air. Air also exits through a valve located elsewhere on the hood.

The hood forms a seal around the wearer’s neck, but the system also creates a positive pressure gradient between the inside of the hood and the outside air—meaning that air wants to flow outward from the protective gear, and not into it. That helps prevent contaminants from getting in even if someone’s long hair, for example, gets caught in the area where it seals against the neck.

Unlike a true spacesuit, it’s not designed to be tightly sealed off from the environment.

This item is called the Scape CBRN 30, and it comes in two varieties: one that also protects against carbon monoxide (the Scape CO/CBRN) and one that doesn’t. The acronym CBRN is a common term referring to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats, and “30” in this case references the time period it’s intended to protect the wearer for: 30 minutes.

That relatively short time frame highlights the gear’s purpose—it’s intended to be thrown on quickly as someone leaves a dangerous area. That differentiates it from the type of gear that professional first responders might don when purposely entering a hot zone. More advanced protective suits include their own air supply; these do not.

The violent, deadly incursion into the Capitol last week produced a shocking stream of images, and among them was the bizarre sight of some people wearing spacesuit-like transparent pieces of gear over their heads.© Provided by Popular Science The Scape CBRN 30 escape respirator.

For example, David Trone, a Democratic congressman from Maryland, tweeted on January 6, saying, “I am safe. We have been evacuated.” The tweet included three images of the eye-catching pieces of protective equipment. While they’ve been referred to as gas masks, they’re technically known as escape hoods.© courtesy of ILC Dover The Scape CBRN 30 escape respirator.

Sometimes also called escape respirators, these hoods serve a key purpose: to allow an untrained civilian to quickly and safely get away from an area that may have a chemical, biological, or even radiological or nuclear threat present.

These specific hoods were made by ILC Dover, according to Doug Durney, the product line manager for that company’s PPE gear.

“When you open it from its case, it automatically comes on,” Durney explains. A fan system pulls air through filters—both a HEPA filter as well as a carbon one—and then fills the hood with clean air. Air also exits through a valve located elsewhere on the hood. The red LED you may have seen in photos shows that it’s on.

The hood forms a seal around the wearer’s neck, but the system also creates a positive pressure gradient between the inside of the hood and the outside air—meaning that air wants to flow outward from the protective gear, and not into it. That helps prevent contaminants from getting in even if someone’s long hair, for example, gets caught in the area where it seals against the neck. Unlike a true spacesuit, it’s not designed to be tightly sealed off from the environment.

This item is called the Scape CBRN 30, and it comes in two varieties: one that also protects against carbon monoxide (the Scape CO/CBRN) and one that doesn’t. The acronym CBRN is a common term referring to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats, and “30” in this case references the time period it’s intended to protect the wearer for: 30 minutes.

That relatively short time frame highlights the gear’s purpose—it’s intended to be thrown on quickly as someone leaves a dangerous area. That differentiates it from the type of gear that professional first responders might don when purposely entering a hot zone. More advanced protective suits include their own air supply; these do not.

“It’s designed for a relatively untrained user, where you pop it on your head, and go,” Durney says. “There’s no on-off button.”

“You can be seen, and you can see,” he adds, referring to the fact that it’s a transparent hood-like system, as opposed to a tight-fitting mask that could obscure part of your face. (Individually, these ILC Dover escape hoods cost about $580, which is the price listed on Grainger.com.)

Escape hoods like this from the company are designed to protect against nasty agents like mustard or sarin gas, ammonia, chlorine, or anthrax. They’re also effective at keeping radioactive particulates out of your lungs—dust that may be radioactive, for example—but they wouldn’t guard against the effects of ionizing radiation itself.

In this case, the escape hoods were reportedly used because of tear gas in the area, according to The New York Times and other reports.

The caching of escape hoods verses the cold war version of gas masks is a decidedly 21st-century phenomenon in the Capitol. It was a post-9/11 type of purchase according to sources but initiated due to an ever growing concern of domestic terrorism within the United States.

The Los Angeles Times reported in 2002 that some 20,000 hoods were sent to the Capitol in June of that year, and that they were made by a company called Survivair at that time. The context, beyond the air-based terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., was the anthrax attacks that involved two U.S. Senators’ office and the rising calls for protection from the threat of domestic terrorism. Five people died as a result of that biological agent in 2002. The Capital police are receiving and increasing number of threats of domestic terrorism and investigate them rigorously. The numbers of those threats have increased exponentially the last 4 years as our nation has become more divided and less oriented toward compromise and collaboration.

We witnessed a true assault on our democracy, not by a Cold War adversary but initiated by the occupant of the White House, 70 plus congress persons and about 7 Senators as co-conspirators.

Shame has been brought on the capital dome by those individuals. A Cold War relic that was put to use on this day, January 6, 2020 by a group domestic terrorists and thugs. This day will be marked in the annuls of history.

A sad day, as a copy of the constitution is protected, in the national archives, sealed in a vault, that would withstand an atomic blast, today it was attacked and its guidance and wisdom was chipped away at, by the occupant of the White House, his co-conspirators in congress and the senate and the mob whose violence he instilled.

On the website of authorChrisEdwards.com is also a photo of US Constitution stored at the National Archives in a vault that can withstand an atomic blast. Sadly the constitution and what it represents was chipped away at, by the violence and antics, of the occupant of the White House on January 6th, President Trump and his co-conspirators that breached the Capital and attempted a Coup against the Democratic Process of Counting the Certified votes of state via the Electoral College of Jan, 6, 2020.

Patriots? No, terrorist and insurrectionist, cowards; who use the name patriot and the constitution in vain. You brought and continue to bring shame on our forefathers and everything they represent. Luckily the wisdom of the leadership of the house and the senate, the the reverence to the constitution by the Vice President allowed the constitutional processes of democracy to prevail.

As of March, prosecutions have begun, law enforcement has now weaved together a thread of the conspiracy and identified hundreds of perpetrators that played a part of the assault on our democracy.

On this day of January 6th, 2020 democracy prevailed. The bigger question for each of us, is will it withstand the constant assault on the rights of the silent majority, the economically challenged, people of color, women, immigrants, the middle and lower classes, as we move forward from this event? Will wealth and power continue to corrupt the systems of government and will further assaults on our leaders become the norm as more Americans distrust the institutions that are the foundation of our daily existence? Time will tell, and you and I each are responsible and we each own the outcome.

Author Chris Edwards January 7, 2020 Updated March 1, 2020.