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Lawmakers Give Advice to New Members of Congress

Rep.-elect Mike Bost listens during a Thursday orientation session. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The final day of the first week of orientation started bright and early Friday morning with an opportunity to learn from current lawmakers at a briefing titled, "If I Knew Then What I Know Now."  

In an event that was not included on the public orientation schedule, four current members of Congress shared their advice with incoming lawmakers in the House Administration Committee hearing room, giving tips on managing office logistics, working as the least-senior members and striking that often elusive work-life balance.  

“I just tried to relate to them about how important it is to integrate family schedule with professional schedule," retiring House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., told CQ Roll Call after the briefing, which his successor, Republican Mike Bishop, attended. "Normally new members, I was one [who] felt I had to do everything at all times for everyone," Rogers said. "And you can wear yourself out in a hurry and you can wear thin your family’s sensitivities, if you will."  

The outgoing chairman addressed the group of freshmen lawmakers with fellow House members Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.; Donna Edwards, D-Md.; and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y.  

“What I wanted to add to the discussion was, see your staff as a connection of who you are," said Tonko. "You know we all have different styles of communicating. They need to know your style and they need to develop your sense of service that compels you to run for office.”  

Tonko said the panelists were selected by party leadership, and though new members were allowed to ask questions, the briefing mainly consisted of the panelists giving their advice.  

Part of that advice included discussing committee assignments. Tonko said he tried to set realistic expectations for incoming members, explaining they might be last in line to ask questions during committee hearings, because they would be the least senior members.  

Rogers also gave some advice on working in a committee. And as a chairman, he is sure to have seen what works and what doesn't work when it comes to being a successful committee member.  

“Everyone has their interest pool, but whatever committee you get, do your homework, become smart on it and then it’s much easier to participate here," said Rogers. "I think they waste a lot of really valuable time by not focusing, learning, getting educated, being a good advocate. You can do something else later but every committee is an opportunity to do something good for your district and your country."  

Although the meeting was closed to the press, it did not appear to be extremely crowded with new members, judging by the number of members-elect who left the briefing, which started just before 8 a.m. However, this was a unique opportunity for House members to learn from current lawmakers, as many of the other sessions are run by House staffers.  

“As I said to the new members, I think it could be one of the best sessions that they have," House Administration Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., said Thursday, adding that it was a chance to receive "some really good advice in a very bipartisan way."  

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