Frosh Inundated at Orientation

Posted November 17, 2008 at 6:38pm

Freshman Members of the 111th Congress learned Monday that class pictures and orientation aren’t just for students.

Representatives-elect met on the East Front of the Capitol at 8 a.m. for a group photo before convening in the Cannon House Office Building Caucus Room for New Member Orientation.

The six-hour session was led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) of the House Administration Committee and provided the new Members with an overwhelming number of facts about their jobs.

“I think it was a lot of information but really fun,” Rep.-elect Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stopped by Monday afternoon and told the freshmen: “When some of us have been around for a while, we say, ‘Here they come, the freshman fruit, who among them will lead?’”

Eleven panels briefed the incoming freshmen on such topics as Member pay benefits, health and wellness, and how to evacuate the Capitol in case of an emergency.

“I think the most entertaining thing was how to put on a hood,” Rep.-elect Dina Titus (D-Nev.) said, referring to a portion of the Security and Emergency Preparedness Panel that included a lesson on how Members-elect should operate an emergency hood.

The session covered everything from the mundane, such as how franking works and renting a district office, to genuinely exciting information, like how the office lottery system works — a topic of great interest to the soon-to-be Members.

The lottery selection will take place Friday, when the new Members will receive their numbers and select their offices. Because more senior Members get first pick, many freshmen will likely be on Cannon’s fifth floor, a section of the Capitol complex that is seen as undesirable by many because of its distance from the House floor.

While some Members are eager to know where they’ll be spending the next two years, lottery numbers are of little concern to Rep.-elect Harry Teague (D-N.M.). “Even if I’m dead last, I still have a Congressional office,” he said with a laugh.

Most of the freshman class arrived in town Sunday in order to attend dinners with their respective party leaders.

Republicans dined with House Minority Leaders John Boehner (R-Ohio) in the Rayburn Room in the Capitol, while Democrats dined with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and were treated to a candlelit tour of the Capitol.

On Monday evening, the entire class was scheduled to gather in Statuary Hall for dinner with Pelosi and the new Members’ first visit to the House floor.

“Last night’s dinner was very humbling, and today is more practical,” Titus said. “I think when we get onto the floor, it’ll be one of those times like, ‘Oh my! This is for real!’”

Arriving in Washington, D.C., was exciting, Fudge said, adding that she is already familiar with the process from her time as chief of staff to the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, whose seat she was elected to fill.

“It’s exciting, but I’ve been here before,” she said. “It’s a big difference knowing the administrative side. I’m really proud and pleased that I can serve in this position.”

Teague described his arrival in D.C. as exciting and nerve-wracking, saying, “I don’t think reality has really set in that I work across the street” in the Capitol.

Orientation will continue through the end of the week.