Excerpts

Then it was Tuesday, January 3, 1995, the day of the swearing-in of the 104th Congress. After a reception at the Capitol, the Clerk of the previous Congress called the House to order and asked all members in attendance to acknowledge their presence by inserting their voting cards into the electronic voting machines located throughout the chamber.

After a quorum had been established, the two party conference chairmen nominated their candidates for Speaker of the House. John Boehner of Ohio nominated Newt Gingrich of Georgia. Vic Fazio of California nominated Richard Gephardt of Missouri, the majority leader in the former Congress and now the highest-ranking Democrat after the defeat of the previous Speaker, Tom Foley, for House minority leader. After the nominations were closed, it was time to vote. The Clerk called the Roll of the House members in alphabetical order.

Ms. Harmon. The California Democrat responded, “Mr. Gephardt.”

Mr. Hastert. The future Republican Speaker from Illinois declared, “Mr. Gingrich.”

Mr. Hastings of Florida. “Mr. Gephardt.”

Mr. Hastings of Washington. “Mr. Gingrich.”

Democratic Representative
Richard Gephardt of Missouri,
the outgoing Speaker of the House,
passes the gavel to the incoming Speaker,
Representative Newt Gingrich of Georgia,
at the start of the 104th Congress.

As a result of the Republican landslide, the result of the vote was a foregone conclusion. Newt Gingrich was the newly-elected Speaker of the House. The senior member of the Congress, John Dingell of Michigan rose from his accustomed seat in the second row and went to the well to swear in the new Speaker.

At the Speaker’s rostrum Gephardt and Gingrich stood side by side. Grasping the gavel, Gephardt spoke:

. . . So with partnership but with purpose, I pass this great gavel of our government, with resignation but resolve, I hereby end forty years of Democratic rule of this House.

Gingrich then asked the newly elected members to stand, raise their right hand, and affirm the Oath of Office, which he read aloud.

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Richard “Doc” Hastings, the newly elected representative to Congress from Washington’s Fourth Congressional District, responded, “I do.”

As he took in the magnificent scene around him, he looked up at the Speaker’s rostrum and set a personal goal. Someday he would sit there and preside over the Congress as Speaker Pro Tempore, just as he had done when he had served in the Washington State Legislature. As he observed the other members sitting around him and their friends and families in the packed gallery, he thought, “There are 265 million people in the United States, and only 435 of them are elected to serve in Congress at any one time. I’m one of them. Not too bad for a kid from Pasco.”

Chapter 6, pp. 93-94


The final incident occurred on December 11, 2014, late at night, when the 113th Congress was getting ready to adjourn. The last vote of the evening was on a motion to suspend the rules and pass the John Muir National Historic Site Expansion Act, sponsored by Doc’s old adversary George Miller of California. By prior agreement, Doc left the dais before the vote was concluded, and another member assumed his place.

The National Statuary Hall that Doc walked
through as he left the House Chamber for
the last time is the former Hall of Representatives prior to 1857.  The door in the center of the picture leads into the current House Chamber.  The dark statue to the left of the door is of Marcus Whitman, one of two statues honoring Washington State
Source: Architect of the Capital in the Hall.
Source: Architect of the Capital

Earlier in the evening, Doc had found Speaker John Boehner at his normal place on the left side of the

chamber and asked him if he would be hosting members for a glass of wine in his office after the session ended, as was his custom. Boehner answered, “Sure.” After leaving the dais, Doc walked to the Speaker’s office, where he found the Speaker and several other members conversing about the close of the session and enjoying a glass of wine. As the others left, one by one, it finally became Doc’s turn to say goodbye. He shook Boehner’s hand, left the office, and walked back toward the House Chamber through Statuary Hall, which had been the location of the original House Chamber. Doc was all alone. His footsteps on the marble floor echoed throughout the empty hall. He thought to himself, “You know, I may be walking out of here for the last time.”

As Doc approached the House Chamber, he made a right, then a left, and then another right, arriving at the elevators, which took him down to the sub-basement of the Capitol. He walked through security to where the tram normally transported members to the Rayburn House Office Building. It was not running that late at night, so he walked through the tunnel to the Rayburn Building basement and into the parking garage where his car was parked. He drove through the dark night across the Potomac River on I-395 to his condominium in Pentagon City. Several days later, Doc was back home in Pasco.

Chapter 16, pp.389-390

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