OLYMPIA — There may be a little extra elbow room for Democratic lawmakers at Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday.
As many as 54 Democratic House members are saying they’ll skip the ceremonial passing-of-the-nuclear codes. Most are doing so in protest of Trump’s cabinet nominees, the recent Twitter blast against U.S. Rep. John Lewis, calls for deporting immigrants and creating a Muslim registry. There’s also lingering distaste from contentious campaign rhetoric.
For some, it’s all of the above.
But Congressman Rick Larsen, a nine-term Democrat from Everett, isn’t among the boycotters, choosing in his words “a different path.”
“The Inauguration is a symbol of what elections result in: the peaceful transition of power,” he wrote in a Jan. 12 post online.
He said he wants to be on hand to bear witness to the swearing in of the nation’s next chief executive and to “watch this administration and the incoming President like a hawk from the first second” because Trump’s policies could bring a whole lot hurt to Washington.
Larsen’s decision, and explanation, generated numerous comments in the first couple days, and responses continue to get posted. One praised his “responsible perspective” while another wrote, “Oh my gosh, you sound like an adult.”
A larger number implored him to reconsider, some politely, others not so much. Larsen’s explanation was deemed a “flimsy excuse” in one response. Another said the congressman had “no spine, no backbone” and one summed up with the sign-off “Shame on you.”
Other Democrats in the delegation aren’t stirring up as much furor with their decision to attend Friday’s ceremony.
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene is going out of respect for the office, said her spokeswoman, Ramsey Cox.
“While the outcome of the election isn’t what most of us wanted, if there are areas we can work with the President-elect, she will,” Cox said.
The congresswoman will take part in the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday “to ensure the President-elect knows the women of our country will be watching if he tries to enact policy that’s bad for women and families,” Cox said.
U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, who could be voting on nominees to serve in Trump’s cabinet, will be attending. Cantwell also plans to join the women’s march in Washington, D.C. or one slated in Seattle, a spokesman said.
Murray “certainly respects everyone’s choice to do as they see fit on Friday and joins in the outrage at President-elect Trump’s divisive rhetoric and policy proposals,” said her press secretary, Kerry Arndt.
Two House members from Washington will skip the inauguration — freshman Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Seattle, and veteran Rep. Adam Smith of Bellevue. For her, it’s a protest. For him, it’s a time to be with family.
In a statement, Jayapal said she’s been disappointed that Trump has not worked to unite the country after the campaign. She said she hoped he would move away from controversial policies such as creating a Muslim registry, repealing the federal health care law and deporting millions of undocumented immigrants but he hasn’t. His criticism of Lewis, a hero of the Civil Rights movement, cemented her resolve.
“I did not undertake the decision lightly,” said Jayapal, who represents the 7th Congressional District which includes part of south Snohomish County.
She said she understands her absence breaks with a tradition that everyone in both parties shows up at presidential inaugurations.
“However, this is not a normal time and we cannot pretend it is so,” she said.
(Inaugural ceremonies are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. PST. You can read the full program online at www.inaugural.senate.gov)
Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @dospueblos.