At least one in five California members of Congress are skipping Trump's inauguration

January 15, 2017
In The News

There’s a lot Rep. Jared Huffman would rather do than go to Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday. So he’s going to stay home.

"I’ll spend that day, and actually several days, in my district doing service events and community events to try to send a positive message with my time rather than sitting passively and applauding while something that I think is very dark and dangerous for our country begins,” said Huffman (D-San Rafael).

Among other things, Huffman plans to spend the weekend helping with a river cleanup, participating in a naturalization ceremony for new citizens and joining a local women’s march against the Republican president-elect. 

“I’m going to be far busier in my district and in my community doing positive things than I ever would have been coming to Washington for that ceremony,” Huffman said.

As of Thursday night, 39 of California’s 55-member delegation said they planned to attend the inauguration, where members of Congress have some of the best seats to view the peaceful transfer of power. That includes all 14 of the delegation’s Republicans. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) said: “I attended both of Obama’s. You better believe I’ll be attending Trump’s!"

But at least 12 California House Democrats are skipping the inauguration. An additional five say they are still trying to decide. Among the undecideds is Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who recently had a pacemaker installed. Her staffers said they weren’t sure of her plans.

Some told The Times last week they are they being motivated to stay home by outcry from constituents in a state that overwhelmingly picked Democrat Hillary Clinton for president, others by Trump’s comments and the moves he’s made since building his Cabinet. Most of the members who aren’t going made up their minds not to attend even before Trump criticized civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who announced on Friday he wouldn’t be going and said he believed Trump wouldn’t be a legitimate president. 

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) said last week her conscience won’t permit her to attend.

“An inauguration for me is a celebratory event and while I appreciate and honor the peaceful transition of power, for me to celebrate someone who wants to build a wall, who wants to establish a Muslim registry, who wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and who has appointed a person as attorney general such as Jeff Sessions ... I can’t celebrate that,” Lee said.

"I acknowledge the fact that he is the incoming president, but I’m not in the mood to celebrate that fact,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose).

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) said he struggled with the decision and sought advice from colleagues and constituents before ultimately deciding not to go.

“He’s shown such disrespect for some of the people I represent and it’s a hard thing for me to get over and he’s not really dialed it back or tried to show that he’s going to be different,” Takano said. “I want to be respectful of the office, but at the same time I also want to represent my constituents.”

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) is using his week free of House votes to do his Air Force Reserve duty on Tuesday and Wednesday. He’ll be done before Friday’s ceremony, but said he doesn’t see the point of coming back for it.

Lieu and Trump will find topics to agree on, “but that doesn’t mean I need to be at his inauguration,” he said. “I’ll watch it on television, but do I want to ... spend taxpayer money to fly me here to watch it?”

Multiple members are still wrestling with the decision.

Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Los Angeles) said he’s struggling to give Trump the deference he would normally extend a president regardless of party, and hasn’t made up his mind.

“I think about all the people that he has offended, over and over, past and present, and it’s painful to think that I would bring myself to actually go out there and sit there and subject myself to him just 50 feet away,” Cárdenas said.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) is leaning toward not going, too, though she’d like to say goodbye to President Obama. Her constituents voted overwhelmingly for Clinton, and she said they’re telling her not to go.

“I just don’t know that I want to be there,” Bass said. “For us to fly all the way back here, I just don’t know that I’m ready for that.”

Rep. Juan Vargas, a former Jesuit missionary, said that if he doesn’t go, he’ll spend the time praying for the country and for Trump.

“I have a great deal of respect for the office of the president, but after the things that the president-elect has said … I don’t want to be a hypocrite and pretend like I have respect for him,” Vargas said. “I studied to be a priest for a long time and we all make mistakes, but the things that he has said, the mocking of disabled people in particular, the things he’s said about Mexicans, it would be very hard for me to be in a place like that celebrating.”

Several Democrats who have decided to go said their decision was made easier because they’ll also attend the Women’s March on Washington, a protest expected to draw many thousands to the National Mall the day after the inauguration. Many members who are not attending the inauguration said they will participate in associated women’s marches in California.

Freshman Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) said he struggled with whether to go before deciding that it was more important to make a statement by attending than to make a statement by staying home.

“I was trying to reconcile everything that happened during the election. Clearly, with President-elect Trump it’s not just a difference on policy. His behavior, the hateful things he said about many people, including myself — somebody who is Mexican — veterans, the disabled, really touched me in a very profound way,” he said. Carbajal was born in Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. as a child.

He says joining some constituents for the women’s march afterward is “a way to be present, to symbolize that I will be at least one member of Congress among many that he will have to deal with as he implements his agenda.”

Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) said attending the march after going to the inauguration is a chance to exercise his rights as a citizen.

“To respect the office of the presidency and yet be able to turn around the next day and to say that not everything that he’s said represents the values of San Bernardino County or this country — that’s America,” he said.