PROVIDENCE — US Representative David N. Cicilline delivered his final speech from the House floor on Tuesday as former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others thanked him for fighting for LGBTQ rights, gun safety, and Big Tech accountability during his 12 years in Congress.
The Rhode Island Democrat is stepping down on June 1 to become president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, and 15 Democrats have already lined up to run for the First Congressional District seat.
“I leave this body knowing that I left it all on the field and did everything I could to keep Americans safe from gun violence, to end legal discrimination against LGBTQ+ Americans, and to shine a bright light on the antitrust issues posed by Big Tech,” Cicilline said during his speech.
Cicilline, a former Providence mayor and state legislator, said he came to Washington “with my eyes wide open,” knowing that some members of Congress were only interested in “being combative and making headlines.”
“At times it can be incredibly frustrating and disheartening to work with people who may agree with you on one issue but completely disagree with you on everything else — including on how you live your own life,” he said. ”However, I think it’s important for the American people to know that there are a lot of people in Congress who put their country over party and work hard every day to improve the lives of their constituents and all Americans.”
Cicilline thanked many colleagues and staff members, and made a special point of thanking former Pelosi and Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat. He said Pelosi was “a powerful ally in all of my biggest priorities during my time in Congress.” And he thanked her for making him an impeachment manager — “in defense of our democracy” — during the second impeachment of former President Donald J. Trump.
Cicilline described DeLauro as his “most important mentor, my friend and my inspiration,” telling her, “The only time you have ever been wrong is your claim that New Haven pizza is better than pizza from Providence.”
Cicilline concluded his speech, saying, “I come from a state whose motto is ‘Hope.’ And as I leave Congress, I want to leave with that parting word, ‘Hope.’ – Hope for our democracy, and for this institution.”
After his speech, Pelosi came to the microphone to thank Cicilline for his tenure in Congress. She said she would never forget the day in 2016 when Cicilline joined Representative John Lewis, the civil rights leader from Georgia, and other Democrats in staging a sit-in on the House floor to demand a vote on gun legislation. “It actually became a sit-in heard ‘round the world,” she said.
Pelosi recalled seeing Cicilline at events for Italian-American members of Congress, Jewish members of Congress, and LGBTQ members of Congress. “He was man for all seasons, all ethnicities, all orientations,” she said. “And that made him a great representative for our entire country across the board.”
Pelosi praised Cicilline for his tenure as co-chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, saying, “He made our message more effective.” And she gave Cicilline credit for being a mayor, saying, “When you are mayor, you are a manager and you have to get things done. He brought that administrative skill to a legislative job, and we all benefitted from it.”
DeLauro said she and Cicilline shared a bond — “Italian simpatico” — from the moment he came the House 12 years ago.
She described him as “a trailblazer for LGBTQ rights, the first openly gay mayor of a major US city, and here in the Congress a leading voice for human rights, civil rights, marriage equality, gun safety, antitrust, bringing back manufacturing jobs, and so much more, taking on the tech industry.” She said, “His passion, his commitment to these causes made him one of the most effective legislators in the House.”
DeLauro said Cicilline authored a bill to ban assault-style weapons even when others told him not to do it. “Like John Lewis, he is not afraid to get into good trouble when fighting for what is right,” she said, noting the assault-weapons bill passed the House last year.
DeLauro said she is sad to see Cicilline leave Congress. But, she said, “Next time I am in Providence, and I hope that will be soon, we can get a drink at Clementine cocktail bar and plan some good trouble together.”
Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.