The swearing in of New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was more of an event than any of these that reporters could easily remember. The timing worked out so that all but two or three senators shared the floor with their new colleague; he gripped and grabbed with them for nearly an hour, alternating between handshake and bear hug, before heading to the Old Senate Chamber for a family photo. From there, Booker had to miss the Democrats' caucus meeting in order to attend a party for his supporters in the Russell building's "Kennedy caucus room."
I caught up with Newark City Councilman Ron Rice Jr, the son of Booker's 2006 opponent, but an ally for years -- we'd met when I'd covered the 2006 race. He was retiring from the council next year, because with Booker gone, "it's the end of an era" -- he just might take his new family to work in D.C.
But I'd come to the outskirts of the party because, two hours into his Senate career, Booker was holding his first press conference. He took a selection of open-ended, fairly friendly questions about if he felt the weight of history upon him. Well, he did! Booker and his mother had spent the morning with "one of the most extraordinary heroes in my life, a living legend, John Lewis. I stand on the shoulders of giants, and the fact that some of these giants are serving in Congress right now is really moving."
What would Booker do to change the Senate? "Dear God," he said, "now I'm going to use this office to every inch, every measure of my capacity to make a difference in peoples' lives. One thing I'm bringing down to my office is a gift given to me by Mayor Bloomberg -- a countdown clock that counts down the minutes, the hours of what you have left.
The closest the new senator got to policy: He answered an aggressive Telemundo reporters' questions en capable Espanol, and confirmed that he wanted to work on la immigracion reform. And he told reporters both before and during the presser that he'd vote for the Employee Non Discrimination Act.