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Langevin in tune with DC, but won't miss commute

Posted 3/3/22

In 2001 Congressman Jim Langevin rolled into the House Chamber. It was the first time a quadriplegic served in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Congress wasn’t quite ready for me …

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Langevin in tune with DC, but won't miss commute


In 2001 Congressman Jim Langevin rolled into the House Chamber. It was the first time a quadriplegic served in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Congress wasn’t quite ready for me when I got there,” Langevin said Thursday. On Jan. 2, 2023 Lanegvin will roll out of Congress for the last time. After serving 22 years he is not seeking another term in Congress.

Last Thursday just hours after Russia invaded Ukraine, Langevin addressed the Warwick Rotary Club. Following his talk he took another half hour for a one-on-one interview about highlights of his public service and his plans going forward. While on his way out, Langevin hasn’t pulled back from the global debate or the issues he considers important to the country.


In an interview at Chelo’s following the Rotary Club meeting Langevin addressed a number of issues including the conflict in Ukraine.

“It’s a national security threat that we need to take seriously and cyber blowback from that could be significant here and against our allies,” said Langevin. When asked if he sees the United States taking a military role in Ukraine Langevin said “Only in terms of shoring up NATO and our European allies.”

Langevin said he sees the United States helping to provide weapons to the people of Ukraine and other support but doesn’t see the U.S providing any soldiers and forces in combat.

In terms of advisors similar to the ones that were in Afghanistan Langevin said that it’s something that hasn’t been brought to the table yet.

“I don’t know about that yet, that’s going to be up to the President’s decision. I think that may be a possibility,” said Langevin.

Langevin said he would likely support advisors for training and assisting in that aspect but not in a combat role.

“We’re going to push back hard with economic sanctions and it very well could cripple Russia’s economy,” said Langevin.

Lanegin said that he would advocate for putting sanctions on Vladimar Putin and the oligarchs personally as well.

“We have to leave nothing left on the table in terms of the sanctions we put on them,” said Lanegin.

During his speech Langevin said he is hopeful that it will be a positive outcome.

“I pray that we’re going to have some sort of peaceful outcome to this in the near future,” said Langevin.

 Major accomplishments

In his speech to the Warwick Rotary Club last week Langevin said that his biggest accomplishment wasn’t the legislation that he passed but rather that Tom Brady followed his lead and decided to retire shortly after Langevin.

With jokes aside, Langevin said that one of the proudest votes he took was in favor of the Affordable Care Act.

“It lowered healthcare costs, it covered millions of uninsured and it helped to create a better system of healthcare focused on quality of care,” said Langevin.

Langevin also touted his record on veterans.

“We have the finest military on the planet because of the men and women who serve,” said Langevin.

When it came time for questions Vietnam War veteran and Rotary Club member Ed Tavares said several years ago he had an issue with the VA and he contacted Langevin’s office to get it resolved. He said that since then he hasn’t had any issues.

“I also worked to fulfill our promises to our warfighters once they returned home, protecting the benefits they’ve earned and investing in mental health care, improving the VA system, and ending veteran homelessness once and for all,”

Langevin wrote in a press release announcing that he wouldn’t be running for re-election. “ I always worked to serve them as well as they served us.”

Another major accomplishment that Langevin pointed to was co-authoring of numerous pieces of cybersecurity legislation including the National Cyber Director Act.

 Added challenges

Since he was 16 Langevin has lived with the reality of a mobility impairment. An accident while Langevin was working with the Warwick Police Department as part of the Boy Scout Explorer program led to his injury.

A gun accidentally discharged and the bullet struck Langevin. His dreams of becoming a police officer were over, but it meant that he would find a new way to serve his community.

Langevin’s handicap didn’t stop him from serving his community.

He started his career in public service while he was a student at Rhode Island College and was elected to the Rhode Island State Constitutional Convention. He later served as a state representative and then as Secretary of State before being elected to Congress.

“This journey began as a way to give back to the community that rallied behind my family and I in a time I needed it the most,” Langevin told the Warwick Rotary Club. “I didn’t know it was going to be a lifelong avocation.”

For much of the year members of Congress travel back and forth from their home state and Washington D.C.

In Langevin’s case it didn’t just mean he had to make his way to T.F Green International Airport in order to fly to D.C.

It also meant that he had to make sure he had a Certified Nurse Assistant with him.

“It’s not just about me going back and forth but I have to make sure I have someone with me to help me from getting up in the morning to when I go to bed at night,” said Langevin.

When Langevin arrived in Congress he realized there would be other obstacles he had to face as he navigated around the halls of Congress.

From the very beginning Langevin said that his colleagues were accommodating to him, especially majority leader Steny Hoyer.

“He bent over backwards to make sure there’s no barriers to me serving in Congress,” said Langevin.

One of the first challenges he faced was being able to give floor speeches. Langevin recalled the lecterns not being attached to the floor and he not being able to get close enough to it.

It meant at first Langevin had to give his speeches from the side of it with a lapel microphone.

Then carpenters were able to create two new lecturns that were attached to the floor and Langevin was able to deliver his floor speeches just like everyone else.

“It was a really nice addition to the house chamber,” said Langevin.

Langevin said that voting machines were also added to the House Chambers which made it easier for him to reach.

He said that one of the machines added has become extremely popular.

Automatic door openers were also added.

During his time in Congress another addition that was made was a series of lifts that allows someone in a wheelchair or with mobility impairments to get to the top of the House Rostrum.

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the ADA Act, Lanegvin got on that same lift, went up to the House Rostrum and was the first person in a wheelchair to preside over the House of Representatives as Speaker Pro Tempore.


Langevin said that anytime he worked on a major issue he had a routine. It was to make sure he had someone from across the political aisle to work with.

“On any major issues I worked on I always had a bipartisan partner,” said Langevin.

Oftentimes he sought someone to work with and sometimes it happened naturally.

One example of it happening naturally was on cybersecurity. Langevin chaired the Homeland Security subcommittee that had jurisdiction over cyber and Michael McCaul a Republican from Texas was the ranking member.

The two of them not only created a cyber security caucus together, Langevin and McCall also were two out of the four co-chairs for a project from the Center for Strategic and National Studies for the commission on cybersecurity for the 44th presidency.

As a commission the task was to create an overarching document on how to strengthen the nation’s cybersecurity. It would be the foundational document for the president which turned out to be Obama.

“We were preparing the document for the 44th President,” said Langevin.

Another example that Langevin pointed to was the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act which Langevin helped to draft along with Republican Glenn Thompson.

Langevin said he and Thompson wouldn’t agree on many issues but that they did on that issue and worked together to make sure it passed.

When it comes to bipartisanship Langevin didn’t stop with just colleagues in the House of Representatives.

In fact, one of the people that he is appreciative of when it comes to the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act is President Donald Trump who signed the bill into law. When Langevin had the chance to talk to Trump in person he thanked him for signing it.

While Langevin said that he aligned with Barack Obama the most in terms of policy he said that it was George W. Bush who he got connected the most with on a personal level.

“He was fun to be around. He was very personable,” said Langevin.

Langevin said that he appreciated the work of his father George H. W. Bush signed the ADA Act and was thankful that George W. Bush signed the legislation that strengthened it.

“I remember what the world was like before the ADA was passed. I was injured 10 years before ADA was enacted,” said Langevin. “It made a profound difference.”

 Political divide

Langevin said in recent years he thinks that there has been more division in the country than when he first started in Congress.

“I’m not sure where it all stems from,” said Langevin.

Langevin said that he thinks that a large part of the reason for it is because people don’t think that the system is working for them, saying that “It’s harder and harder for them to get ahead.”

“They’re finding it harder, and harder than ever before to realize the American Dream to keep a roof over your head, food on the table, to meet their basic needs,” said Langevin.

Langevin said that because of that he thinks that people are frustrated.

“I think Donald Trump tapped into that anger and frustration,” said Langevin.

He said that he also thinks that he did a lot of twisting to exploit those anxieties.

“It just further divided the country more,” said Langevin.

One thing that Langevin also finds concerning is the divide that has come from the pandemic.

“I still find it astonishing that a public health crisis was politicized,” said Langevin.

 Who will replace Langevin?

Numerous candidates have announced their intentions to run to succeed Langevin. In attendance for last week’s rotary club meeting was Democratic candidate Joy Fox who worked for Langevin and former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, who is planning on running in the Republican primary.

As many as seven have emerged as possible Democratic candidates.

While he said he wants to see a Democrat retain the seat, Langevin didn’t say who he favors.

“I haven’t made a decision if I’m going to endorse before the primary,” said Langevin.

Whoever wins the election, Langevin’s advice to them is “try to find common ground and don’t get sucked up into politics.”

He said that it takes effort to build relationships across the aisle but it is important in order to solve major problems.

What’s next

After 22 years, Langevin said “It became more appealing to want to stay close to home.”

While he won’t be in Congress come next year he said he wants to be in public service somehow.

“I’m always going to be involved in public service in some way, shape or form,” said Langevin.

Langevin said he doesn’t yet know if his public service future will be in the form of volunteer work or as a job.

“I would like to find something that is more job focused and still helps to pay the bills,” said Langevin.

Langevin said that he has received advice from some former members of Congress who have told him to take his time and to find something that will be a good fit for him.

Regardless of what Langevin’s plans are for the next chapter of his life he said that he is focusing on finishing his term in Congress.

 “I still have a job to do for the next 10 months,” said Langevin

Langevin, congressman


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