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Party leaders spar over swearing in of Becerra replacement

Party leaders spar over swearing in of Becerra replacement
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Republican and Democratic House leaders are sparring over the delayed arrival of the lawmaker elected to replace Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraHispanic leaders coalesce in support of Lujan Grisham as HHS secretary Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Biden picks first Latino to lead Homeland Security MORE (D-Calif.).

Democratic Rep.-elect Jimmy Gomez, a California state assemblyman, will be sworn in on July 11, more than a month after his June 6 election — a delay that prompted House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to question Gomez’s dedication to the voters he’ll soon represent.

McCarthy appears particularly indignant about reports that Gomez is delaying his D.C. arrival in order to help California state Democrats pass a climate change bill.

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“This unabashed play to politics is an abdication to participate in representative democracy,” McCarthy wrote Tuesday in a letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) and Gomez. 

“The Democrat agenda in Sacramento must be made on its merits — not political deal making that leaves over 700,000 of our fellow Californians without a representative to their federal government.”

McCarthy asked Gomez “to report to the United States Congress immediately.” 

The entreaty was not overlooked by Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, who fired off a letter of his own to McCarthy on Wednesday, accusing the Republican leader of character assassination against Gomez.

“It is disappointing that you have chosen to acknowledge the start of a new member's congressional career with such an unfounded attack on his character,” Crowley wrote. “It is my hope you will retract your statements and welcome to Congress Representative-elect Gomez at the appropriate time and date for him to begin his tenure.”

Becerra, the former Democratic Caucus chairman, resigned from Congress on Jan. 24 to become California’s attorney general. The special election to replace him took place on April 4, followed by a runoff contest on June 6.

McCarthy contrasted Gomez’s timeline with those of newly elected Republican Reps. Karen Handel (Ga.) and Ralph Norman (S.C.), who were sworn in on Monday, less than a week after being elected.

If the delay persists, McCarthy added, Gomez should resign so voters in his Los Angeles district “can elect someone ready to serve on Day One.” 

Crowley shot back that McCarthy omitted a third Republican — Rep. Greg Gianforte — who was sworn in last week, 27 days after his special election victory in Montana. Gianforte’s race was mired in scandal after he assaulted a reporter the night before the election. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault on June 12 and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management counseling and a $385 fine.  

“Surely, you would not consider pleading guilty to assault to be a more acceptable reason for a delay than state legislative responsibilities?” Crowley wrote to McCarthy.