Democrat Melanie Stansbury sworn in to Congress

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., left, holds a swearing-in ceremony for Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-N.M., right, joined by her father, James Stansbury, center, at the Capitol in Washington, June 14, 2021. Rep. Stansbury won a special election to fill the vacancy in New Mexico’s 1st congressional district, the seat held previously by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-N.M., pledged Monday on the House floor to help build a more just, equitable and resilient world after she was sworn in as the newest member of the 117th Congress.

The 42-year-old New Mexico lawmaker, who won a special election earlier this month, gives House Democrats a bit more breathing room in the narrowly divided chamber. There are now 220 Democrats and 211 Republicans in the House.

During a brief speech on the floor, Stansbury quoted her predecessor, Deb Haaland, who resigned from the post when she was confirmed as secretary of the interior.

“I ran for Congress because I believe deeply in our communities and our ability to bring meaningful change,” she said.

Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-N.M., introduced Stansbury, saying that her upbringing in a hardworking family was relatable to many in the state. And while Stansbury’s official certificate of election hasn’t been formally processed, Herrell said there was “no contest and no question” about Stansbury’s landslide victory early this month.

Stansbury took her oath of office on a copy of the U.S. Constitution and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which were held by her father, James Stansbury.

“How proud your parents must be,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said to Stansbury as the ceremony concluded.

Stansbury spent Monday taking official congressional photos, getting her office and staff ready and talking with the House speaker and different caucus leaders. By the end of the day, she planned to cast her first votes on two procedural matters before the House.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Stansbury said in an interview. “But I’m coming into office having served in the Legislature, and (I) have a good sense of what the major priorities are in our state.”

It wasn’t clear Monday to which committees Stansbury will be assigned, according to her spokeswoman.

Stansbury is entering a deeply divided Congress that has been at work for more than five months, and some major issues are already being debated. For example, lawmakers for weeks have been negotiating an infrastructure package that is a goal for the president.

Stansbury said she will participate in those negotiations with plans for New Mexico. Those include expanding broadband in the state, getting clean drinking water to To’hajiilee, a Navajo community on the western edge of Bernalillo County, and improving the state’s clean-energy infrastructure.

Other priorities she has in Congress will be pandemic recovery efforts and the protection of voting rights. She said she will support the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which are bills that have been proposed in Congress that Democrats say will protect voting rights.

“They are both critical to protecting our democracy, and we need to get them done this year,” Stansbury said of the voting-rights bills.

Stansbury now represents New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, which covers most of Bernalillo County, all of Torrance County and parts of Sandoval, Santa Fe and Valencia counties. She won a special election for the seat June 1, defeating Republican state Sen. Mark Moores by 24 percentage points.

Stansbury has submitted her resignation from her seat in the New Mexico House of Representatives, where she had represented a seat based in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights since 2018.

The Bernalillo County Commission will pick her replacement.

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