WASHINGTON -- Elizabeth Warren gathered Thursday with friends, family and supporters in the Kennedy Caucus Room before being ceremonially sworn in to take the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat. On the way to the Old Senate Chamber, where the latest Democratic senator from Massachusetts would meet Vice President Joe Biden for the ceremony, she reflected on being officially sworn in earlier that day in the new Senate chamber.
"That's the first time I've ever been on the Senate floor, literally the first time," said Warren, who famously threatened to cover it with their "blood and teeth" if opponents of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau attempted to weaken or block the new agency.
Walking from the Russell Senate Office Building, named for a Southern Democratic titan who held the line against the civil rights movement for decades, the former law professor and bankruptcy expert saw a student of hers from more than a decade ago. He congratulated her and wished her well.
As she traversed the tunnel toward the basement of the Capitol, Warren recalled the first time she had any experience with the Senate floor. It was 2002, and she had been working hard to oppose bankruptcy reform proposals that were a top priority of banks and credit card companies looking to prevent consumers from shaking off steadily rising debt. When the bill came to the floor, she was certain that she had lost and turned C-SPAN off.
"I thought there's no point [watching], because I know what's going to happen. And the phone rings and there's this man shouting on the phone, and I just thought it was a prank call," she said. "And I started to hang up and -- you know how you hear something? -- I put it back to my ear and I said, 'Senator Kennedy?' And he said, 'We did it! We stopped that bill! Here, wait, let me put Dick Durbin on!' And he was in the Senate cloakroom, and that was my first connection ever to that real estate."
Warren was directed by an attendant to an elevator marked "Senators Only."
"Pretty cool," she said, asked how it feels to take the exclusive ride. "Pretty cool."
Her destination, the Old Senate Chamber, was used during most of the first half of the 19th century. Swathed in royal red carpeting and plush walls, the room earned the term "chamber" and hosted some of the greatest debates in American history.
HuffPost noted that Sen. Daniel Webster had delivered his famous "Liberty and Union" speech in the chamber Warren was about to enter. She will be taking Webster's seat, though not his desk.
"Daniel Webster's desk goes to the senator from New Hampshire, not the senator from Massachusetts," she said, adding that she had heard it skipped over the border by dint of the great orator's last will. Webster, she noted, wasn't just a senator from Massachusetts but held Kennedy's seat, as did former President John Quincy Adams and the famous abolitionist Charles Sumner -- who left actual blood on the Senate floor when he was brutally beaten within an inch of his life by a South Carolina congressman. "It's pretty amazing. It's pretty amazing," Warren said.
In the new Senate chamber, Warren's assigned desk happens to be on the Republican side of the aisle because the desks have yet to be rearranged to account for Democratic gains. "Hey, that's taking bipartisanship too far," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who recruited Warren to run.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the first woman elected on her own to the U.S. Senate, had more elevated advice. She barely came up to Warren's shoulder as the two embraced on the floor of the upper chamber. Mikulski attached an official Senate pin to the lapel of the incoming senator's pantsuit. Think of it, Mikulski said she told Warren, as "like the Croix de Guerre for all the battles we women have fought."
"Congratulations," Mikulski said, with her eyes watering as she beat her hand against her heart. "You stand here now in the footsteps of so many women who for so long would have liked to have been here, should have been here, but didn't get the shot. You've got the chance. You have a band of sisters. And we're going to not only make history, we're going to change history."
This story has been updated with reflections from Sen. Warren.