Jan 3, 2021 - Politics & Policy

What it's like swearing-in for Congress during COVID-19

Jake Auchincloss in the Capitol before being sworn in.
Jake Auchincloss, clockwise from upper left, walks to COVID test; visits Statuary Hall; has his father affix his member pin; looks at a painting of the signing of the Constitution. Photos: Kadia Goba

Jake Auchincloss said being sworn in to the U.S. House today reminded him of reporting to Quantico for Marine duty a decade ago, but instead of contemplating a foreign enemy, he had to navigate one he couldn't see: the coronavirus.

Why it matters: The 32-year-old freshman from Massachusetts offered fresh eyes to commonplace routines for Washington veterans. He stood in awe of a Capitol painting and wide-eyed in its gilded rooms, gave his lone guest pass to his father, and reported for COVID testing before the House proceedings.

The backstory: Auchincloss beat a massive field of fellow Democrats to succeed Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III in Congress, after Robert F. Kennedy's grandson tried but failed to unseat Edward J. Markey from the U.S. Senate. Auchincloss has his own Kennedy connection: He is distantly related to the late Jacqueline Kennedy.

The newcomer agreed to let Axios tag along today as he embarked on his congressional tenure.

  • Auchincloss posted a photo Saturday after his wife, Michelle, dropped him off at Logan Airport in Boston for the flight to Washington, D.C. She decided against traveling with the couple's 9-month-old son.
  • He said reporting to the Capitol complex recalled beginning his military service after Harvard.
  • “It feels like a similar mindset, which is walking into something bigger than myself and getting ready for a new adventure and a new form of public service. Feels both really kind of intense and slightly anxiety-provoking but also just exciting.”
  • He gave his lone chamber ticket to his father, Hugh, and plans to hang a copy of a newspaper story about his first election win — in 2015, to the Newton City Council — on a wall in his new office.
  • Auchincloss then reported to the Capitol COVID testing site to check for the coronavirus. He'll get the vaccine tomorrow.
  • The representative-elect grabbed his new-member packet in Statuary Hall before entering the House chamber for a quorum call and later joining a rotating group of 72 members for their swearing-in.
  • His last name is so early in the alphabet, he cast just the third vote in favor of Pelosi.

After Auchincloss reached into his packet and pulled out the lapel pin signifying he was a member of Congress, his father stuck it on his lapel.

  • That said, he plans to room with another member to save on housing costs.
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