SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California U.S. Rep.-elect Jimmy Gomez is expected to finally join fellow Democrats in Washington on July 11 — five weeks after he won a special election to replace Xavier Becerra, now California's attorney general.
Gomez, a California state assemblyman, is the only special election winner this year who has not been sworn in, prompting criticism from Republicans that he's unfairly leaving his Los Angeles constituents without representation in Washington.
Gomez said that due to a family conflict, he couldn't join two Republicans who were elected after him at a Monday swearing-in session.
His delay in transitioning to Washington initially was prompted by hopes he'd stay in Sacramento long enough to provide California Democrats with a vote on key issues, including extending the state's cap-and-trade program. Gov. Jerry Brown initially set a June 15 goal for renewing the program, and Gomez told the Los Angeles Times he hoped to stay in the assembly in order to vote for it.
That June 15 vote never happened, though, and Brown and lawmakers are still negotiating an extension of the program, which caps total carbon emissions and requires businesses to buy allowances in order to pollute.
Brown wants to pass the legislation with two-thirds support. Democrats hold a supermajority in the assembly by one seat, meaning without Gomez they could not lose any members to pass legislation along strictly party lines. Brown has said he'll need some Republicans to back cap and trade as he faces Democratic defections.
The governor wants a deal by July 21, the last day before state lawmakers leave for summer recess.
Marcella Cortez, a spokeswoman for Gomez, did not answer specific questions about Gomez's position on cap-and-trade or whether he still hoped to vote for it before leaving for Washington.
Gomez won a special election June 6. His delayed swearing-in has prompted partisan sparring in Washington.
"The Democrat agenda in Sacramento must be made on its merits — not political deal making that leaves over 700,000 of our fellow Californians without a representative to their federal government," Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote in a Tuesday letter to Gomez and Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Democrats, meanwhile, are defending Gomez for staying engaged in the state Legislature.
"I applaud his commitment to ensuring his home state and his Assembly district are well represented in the critical debates facing California at this time," U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, wrote to McCarthy.
Crowley noted it took nearly four weeks for Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte of Montana to be sworn in after winning a special election in May. Gianforte's swearing in was delayed until after his court date for assaulting a reporter on the eve of his election. He pleaded guilty.
A special election to replace Gomez in Sacramento will not be scheduled until he officially resigns his assembly seat.
Gomez said his congressional district office has been open since June 9.
Associated Press writer Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.