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One O.C. Rep, at Least, Had a Ball

Inauguration: But unlike Loretta Sanchez, two of five Republican congressmen didn't even attend Clinton's swearing-in.

January 21, 1997|GEBE MARTINEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Sometimes you've got to do what you don't want to do. Duty calls.

So, with their hands jammed into their coat pockets and polite smiles on their faces, three of Orange County's Republican congressmen Monday watched a Democratic president take the oath of office for a second term.

On the west steps of the Capitol, Reps. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach), Jay C. Kim (R-Diamond Bar), and Ron Packard (R-Oceanside) witnessed the inauguration of Clinton, the nation's 42nd president.

Two other local Republicans, Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) and Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) ditched Clinton's swearing-in ceremony altogether.

Rohrabacher missed the president's speech about the "American journey" into the next century, about setting aside partisan sniping. Royce watched it on television from his Capitol Hill office.

But for the county's lone Democratic representative in the House, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), the day was like living a fairy tale.

"I got tears in my eyes . . . it was an emotional time up there," Sanchez said of Clinton's ceremonial swearing-in.

Afterward, she rode in one of the first official cars of the Presidential Inaugural Parade--in the sedan carrying Washington, D.C., Police Chief Larry Solsby and a labor union official.

And in the evening, she dressed up in a gold evening gown she sewed for this special occasion and juggled four separate Inaugural Ball and party invitations.

Even for the Republicans who attended Clinton's ceremony, the inauguration was a markedly different event from the one four years ago, when he first came to office.

Then, Democrats controlled the House and Senate, and Republicans were barely in view.

Monday, with the GOP controlling Congress, at least one local Republican congressman--Cox--was granted prime seating on the presidential platform because of his membership on the House leadership team.

It was one gentle reminder that while the day belonged to Clinton, Congress still belongs to the Republicans.

Some Republicans welcomed the president's message to try to get along, even if they weren't quite sure how things will work out in the coming days and months ahead.

"No one can sound more committed to changing his course of action" than Clinton, Royce said. "Every time he makes one of these pronouncements that he is going to work with us and give us the balanced budget amendment, it gives us hope."

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But Royce remained doubtful--skeptical enough to bypass his reserved seat with other members of Congress.

"I have been through this before and watched him do the same thing before," Royce said. "Having gotten enthusiastic and then watched him break his promises, this time, I thought I would stay [in the office] and get some work done."

An aide for Rohrabacher explained before Monday that the congressman anticipated the Inaugural Day weather would be too cold to brave, and he would "probably work out in the gym" instead.

Rep. Kim sat in the cold and was thankful to Clinton for one important point: The inaugural address was shorter than he expected.

"Overall, the speech was good. It was a feel-good speech," Kim said. He added an optimistic note that the Democrats and Republicans can reduce the political tension.

"We are going to be a little more careful, and we don't want to give the impression to the people that we are being too partisan," he said.

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