Pelosi to use historic gavel to preside over vote

(CNN) – Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, will preside over the House health care reform vote Sunday night with a special gavel that’s already a part of congressional history.

Pelosi will use a gavel borrowed from fellow Democrat longtime Michigan Rep. John Dingell. Dingell used the gavel when he presided over the House as it passed the Medicare bill in 1965.

“A treasure in the Dingell family that was used in the enactment of the Medicare law”, Pelosi told reporters, “I will use it this evening when we cast a very successful vote for this important legislation. This has been a complete team effort, not only a team effort, a partnership with our leadership and every member of our caucus and we look forward to making this historic day known to the American people.”

Dingell’s father, Rep. John Dingell, Sr., had been one of the sponsors of a national health insurance bill in the House in1943. That bill never passed, but the younger Dingell picked up the health care reform effort after he was elected to his father’s seat after the older Dingell’s death in 1955. The younger Dingell was chosen to preside over the House on the day of the 1965 Medicare vote.

The gavel Pelosi will use carries the signature of former Speaker of the House John McCormack, who gave it to Dingell after the Medicare vote. “The history is really important”, Dingell told CNN’s Dana Bash Sunday after it appeared Democrats would have enough votes to pass their health care reform package.

At a Capitol Hill photo op, Pelosi also carried a different 3-foot long, five pound gavel Dingell gave her Sunday. Dingell said he jokingly told Pelosi that gavel, a gift from a Michigan group, would “bring them back” if members got out of order.


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