A Better St. Louis. Powered by Journalism.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Print
  • Email

Opening day of new Congress: Kirk walks the walk, McCaskill is sworn in, Wagner celebrates

In Washington

5:28 pm on Thu, 01.03.13

Supported by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, Kirk points towards his U.S. Senate friend who lined up to watch his walk up the Capitol steps.
All photos by Robert Koenig / Beacon staff
Supported by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk points toward his U.S. Senate friends who lined up to watch his walk up the Capitol steps.

WASHINGTON – For U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., the opening of the 113th Congress on Thursday meant a difficult but triumphant walk up the U.S. Capitol steps – flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and cheered by dozens of fellow senators.

For beaming U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., it was a day of celebration with two dozen family members as she took the oath of office from Biden to become the first Missouri Democrat in three decades to be sworn in to a second term in the Senate.

And for brand-new U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, it was a long but exhilarating day of greeting hundreds of well-wishers, taking the oath from (and re-electing) Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and getting national media exposure as an up-and-coming freshman.

Here are a few scenes from the tumultuous first day of the new Congress:

Kirk takes some big steps in return to Senate

Shortly before noon, Kirk – who has been in intensive rehab from a severe stroke he suffered a year ago this month – walked up 45 Capitol steps to cheers and applause from Biden, his Illinois colleague Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and most members of the U.S. Senate.

Vice President Joe Biden greets Sen. Kirk before the walk up the Capitol steps.
Vice President Joe Biden greets Sen. Kirk before the walk up the Capitol steps.

With his left side mostly paralyzed, Kirk steadied himself with a cane and was supported by his friend, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia. As Kirk and Manchin slowly walked up the steps, Biden walked parallel to them on one side and Durbin on the other.

In an historic scene, nearly all members of the Senate, including U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., cheered their colleague every step of the way. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., greeted Kirk at the top of the stairs, near the outer door to the Senate.

“It’s a historic comeback for a senator who has worked hard to come back and show that those who have suffered strokes can survive and prosper and return to work," Durbin said afterwards. 

"It’s also evidence that a lot of us, regardless of party affiliation, can come together to show the human side of politics.”

McCaskill sworn in for second term

A couple of hours later, McCaskill – flanked by Blunt and former U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan (the first Missouri woman to serve in the Senate) – walked up to the Senate podium and took the official oath of office from Biden.

She then headed with her husband Joseph Shepard, their children and other family members to the Old Senate Chamber for another, ceremonial swearing-in by the vice president.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, her husband Joseph Shepard, Biden, and McCaskill's daughter.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, her husband Joseph Shepard, Biden, and McCaskill's daughter.

As he posed for photos with McCaskill and her family, a typically grinning Biden could be heard saying to one of the senator's daughters: “You’ve got one tough Mom there!”

After the ceremony, McCaskill said it was an exhilarating day – the start of a new six-year term for which she has plenty of goals. “I plan to fight for new opportunities for my kids and grandkids, and for all young Missourians — to create more jobs, and continue my dogged effort to bring down the national debt,” she said.

“And any politician or contractor tempted to waste taxpayer dollars for their own benefit should be on notice — if I have it my way, these next six years will see a new level of accountability in government.”

In all, 23 members of McCaskill’s family attended Thursday’s events, including 6 of the couple’s 7 children, 5 of their 6 grandchildren, and the senator’s siblings.

Afterwards, McCaskill said she was sad that her late mother, Betty Anne McCaskill, who died in October, could not take part in the family celebrations.

“Really missing mom,” the senator said in a Tweet. “Wearing her wedding rings today. She would've been so happy and making new friends all over the Capitol.”

Big crowd of well-wishers greets Wagner

In her new office on the fourth floor of the Cannon House Office Building, Wagner – along with her family members and staff – greeted a big crowd of well-wishers from her district in St. Louis County and around Missouri.

Like other House members, she was sworn into office, threw a party in her new digs, took part in party caucuses and the reelection of Boehner as speaker. Unlike many of the other freshmen, however, Wagner also got some national media attention as the freshman representative to House Republican leadership.

Among the well wishers at the party in her office were several of Missouri’s congressmen, including U.S. Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, and Billy Long, R-Springfield. “Ann is going places,” quipped Long.

Speaking shortly after some GOP conservatives had voted against Boehner for speaker, both Luetkemeyer and Long said they had supported the embattled Republican House leader. Wagner, who is on the speaker's GOP leadership team, also backed Boehner. 

In a statement, Wagner said, “The people of Missouri's 2nd congressional district insist that Congress get things done and that is what I intend to do.

"I am committed to standing up for conservative principles of reining in our out-of-control spending, cutting the debt, reforming our tax code, eliminating onerous regulations and rebuilding confidence in our economy.”

Enyart and Davis: nearby Illinois districts, Capitol offices

There were lots of visitors from southern, southwestern and central Illinois on the 7th floor of the Longworth House Office Building on Thursday afternoon.

That's because the two new House members from the region -- U.S. Reps. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, and Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville -- wound up with nearby congressional offices on the same floor.

Following a tradition of the opening day of Congress, both of the new lawmakers laid out a tasty spread of sandwiches, soda and treats in their offices and welcomed visitors for part of the afternoon. 

Enyart, a retired general and the former adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard, was pleased to get a seat on the House Armed Services Committee. He said he wanted to work in Congress to "create a strong economic future for all of our families and protect the Southern Illinois way of life we share."

Davis, a former top aide to U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, kept busy with House GOP meetings and spent as much time as he could with his family and dozens of supporters who visited from his district, which extends westwards to parts of Edwardsville, Alton and Collinsville. 

Davis' children -- Toryn, Clark and Griffin -- joined him in the House chamber for the swearing-in ceremony, while his wife, Shannon, and other family members and friends watched from the gallery.

 

No Comments

Join The Beacon

When you register with the Beacon, you can save your searches as news alerts, rsvp for events, manage your donations and receive news and updates from the Beacon team.

Register Now

Already a Member

Getting around the new site

Take a look at our tutorials to help you get the hang of the new site.

Most Discussed Articles By Beacon Members

Conference of American nuns will mull response to Vatican charges

In Nation

7:55 am on Fri, 08.03.12

Meeting in St. Louis next week, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious will have its first opportunity as an assembled group to consider what to do after the Vatican issued a mandate for change this spring. It calls on the conference to reorganize and more strictly observe church teachings.

The 'free' Zoo

In Commentary

7:51 am on Tue, 05.22.12

When a family of four goes to the St. Louis Zoo, they can be forgiven for not knowing it will cost them $60, $72 if they park. If they can't pay, the alternative is to tell the kids they can't do what kids do at the zoo.

Featured Articles

House sends Boeing incentive bill to Nixon

In Economy

12:55 pm on Fri, 12.06.13

The Missouri House easily passed legislation aimed at attracting production of the 777x, a move that wraps up a legislative special session that saw little suspense and few surprises. The bill now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon, who has strongly supported the legislation.

Gandhi inspired Mandela on South Africa's 'Long Road to Freedom'

In World

10:10 am on Fri, 12.06.13

Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95, was a towering moral figure of the 20th century -- along with Mahatma Gandhi. It was no coincidence that Gandhi and Mandela, whose paths never crossed directly, both embarked on their campaigns against discrimination in South Africa. It was when Mandela won election as South Africa’s first black president that Gandhi's influence became apparent.

Featured Articles

Regina Carter brings jazz and therapy to Children's Hospital

6:36 am on Mon, 12.09.13

One night, the violinist is taking bows before a standing ovation at Jazz at the Bistro. The next afternoon, some of her audience may have trouble standing, but the kids in the playroom at Children's Hospital were no less appreciative. “Jazz is medicine personified," according to a doctor who brings in the jazz musicians.

Encore: Dead before death

In Performing Arts

12:58 am on Fri, 12.06.13

For years , the author was certain he would never come to appreciate The Grateful Dead, let alone be a Deadhead. But little by little, he's come around. He talks about his conversion and relates a real evolution: by a musician who went on to play with the Schwag, a Dead cover band.

Featured Articles

Schlichter honored with St. Louis Award

In Region

4:57 pm on Tue, 12.03.13

The attorney has founded Arch Grants, which brings together nonprofit philanthropy and commercially viable opportunitiesto fund new business startups, and Mentor St. Louis, which finds adult mentors for elementary students in the St. Louis Public School System. He was the driving force behind the state's historic tax credit program.

BioGenerator sets open house to celebrate new digs for entrepreneurs-in-residence

In InnovationSTL

12:29 pm on Tue, 11.12.13

BioSTL's BioGenerator organization is on the move as its entrepreneurs-in-residence find a new home in 4,300 square feet of office and conference space in an old automobile factory. The blossoming program, which helps BioGenerator's portfolio companies to get off the ground, continues to pay dividends within the growing biotech community.

Ambassadors aim to soften rough landing for St. Louis immigrants

In InnovationSTL

6:34 am on Fri, 11.08.13

The St. Louis Mosaic Project is set to hold an orientation for its new ambassadors -- dozens of foreign and native-born volunteers who aim to help make the community a more welcoming place for those from other nations. Participants will be expected to do everything from visiting local restaurants serving international cuisine to having dinner with an immigrant to the area.

Recent Articles

More Articles

Innovation and entrepreneurial activity are on the rise in St. Louis, especially in bioscience, technology and alternative energy. The Beacon's InnovationSTL section focuses on the people who are part of this wave, what they're doing and how this is shaping our future. To many St. Louisans, this wave is not yet visible. InnovationSTL aims to change that. We welcome you to share your knowledge, learn more about this vibrant trend and discuss its impact.

Featured Articles

Regina Carter brings jazz and therapy to Children's Hospital

6:36 am on Mon, 12.09.13

One night, the violinist is taking bows before a standing ovation at Jazz at the Bistro. The next afternoon, some of her audience may have trouble standing, but the kids in the playroom at Children's Hospital were no less appreciative. “Jazz is medicine personified," according to a doctor who brings in the jazz musicians.

Featured Articles

Featured Events:

More About The Beacon Home