WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS4) – Within view of the brilliantly lit U.S. Capitol Tuesday night the political star power of Marco Rubio helped attract hundreds of people to a reception at the Florida House.
The Republican senator-elect from Miami told reporters, “It is both proud and humbling. I understand this obligation. This a serious job and I can’t wait to get to work.”
Rubio will be sworn into office Wednesday, one of many new congressional faces from South Florida and around the nation.
Florida’s senior U.S. senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, will escort Rubio into the Senate chambers and Nelson told the gathering Tuesday night, “The two senators from Florida have always gotten along so well and I look forward to that relationship.”
Rubio got laughs from the crowd when he said, “I look forward to walking down the aisle with you Bill.”
The aisle between Republicans and Democrats is more like a gulf away from the civility of such gatherings. GOP leaders will now control the House and will soon vote to repeal President Obama’s signature health care law. The Democratic controlled Senate will block such a move but it adds up to another symbol of bruising fights ahead.
Incoming Boca Raton area Republican congressman Allen West is a military veteran. He will not shy away from that legislative fight. West told me, “It is an economic issue. It is a job issue. It is killing small business. It is killing the medical community and it is also hurting our seniors in South Florida.”
Miami Democrat and Congresswoman-elect Frederica Wilson said she will just as passionately fight for the preservation and strengthening of that health care law. The longtime state lawmaker, now another fresh face in Congress, knows she must brace for titanic debates ahead on spending and taxes in the face of skyrocketing national debt.
On the eve of her swearing-in to the 112th Congress Wilson gazed at the Capitol and allowed herself a moment of hope and optimism. She said, “It is a great day for me and I am looking forward to working there and working with my colleagues and helping the people of Florida.”
It is a spirit of bipartisanship that will be sorely tested for everyone in Congress amidst the stubborn challenges and debates that will frame the years to come.