On her second day in Congress, newly elected Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) thought she knew her way around the Capitol building enough to get to the floor by herself for a vote. When she got off an elevator, she made a right and met a friendly Queens congresswoman, Grace Meng (D-Bayside), who informed her she was going the wrong way.
Rice was on more familiar ground Sunday as the former Nassau district attorney had a ceremonial swearing in. She promised to fight for public safety, veterans and work with Republicans.
"We all know things are going the wrong way. It's getting a whole lot harder to succeed in America," she said at the Yes We Can Community Center in North Hempstead. "That needs to change. I'll do everything I can to be part of that change."
Elected officials, Nassau Democratic political leaders and labor officials joined her along with about 250 people. She was officially sworn in on Jan. 6 in Washington.
Sunday, she was sworn in by New York Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer after remarks by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, praising her as a rising Democratic star.
Schumer was one of the first people to call Rice and urge her to run after former Rep. Carolyn McCarthy announced she would retire.
"You've climbed the ladder. You should run for Congress," he said he told her.
In an interview after the ceremony, she said she was "soaking everything in, learning the ways of Washington." She said she planned to work with Republican colleagues, who hold the majority in both the House and Senate.
"Voters said they're sick and tired of gridlock in Washington," she said.
President Barack Obama will deliver his state of the union speech Tuesday, and is expected to propose a middle-class tax cut, paid for by higher taxes on the wealthy. Rice said she wanted to wait for his speech before taking a position.