WASHINGTON — Democratic Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick of Florida was sworn in as the newest member of the House on Tuesday, filling the seat last held by Alcee Hastings, who died in April of pancreatic cancer.
She’ll boost the Democrats’ slender House majority to 222-212, leaving room for no more than four Democratic defections as Speaker Nancy Pelosi tries moving her party’s bills through the House. For much of 2021, that margin was three.
Cherfilus-McCormick will represent a firmly Democratic district. She won office calling for a guaranteed income for most adults of $1,000 a month, an increase in the federal minimum wage to $20 an hour and allowing all Americans to participate in Medicare.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., lauded his new colleague shortly after she took the oath of office, telling lawmakers in the House chamber that she’ll represent an extremely diverse congressional district. He noted that she began working in 1999 at Trinity Healthcare Services, a provider of in-home care, and eventually became its CEO.
“This once single mother is an example of the American dream and represents the aspirations of so many of our South Florida neighbors,” Diaz-Balart said.
Cherfilus-McCormick told members of the House that she is a child of Haitian immigrants who risked their lives to come to the United States.
“I thank my colleagues who fought for me even before I was born to ensure that immigrants can actually have a place in our country and live the American dream,” she said.
Cherfilus-McCormick tried and failed to unseat Hastings in the 2018 and 2020 Democratic primaries. Democrats outnumber Republicans by a nearly 5-1 ratio in the district, which includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties. She won the special election handily last week, but the primary was a different story. She won by five votes over the runner-up in a crowded field of Democratic contenders.
She loaned her campaign nearly $6 million, and repaid herself $2 million of that amount. She far outspent the other candidates in the two elections. She is a married mother of two.
There is one other House vacancy: Republican U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes of California left office to join a media company run by former President Donald Trump.
- Kevin Freking