New Members Settle In As Orientation Starts
They came in cabs and town cars, struggling to lift luggage to the curb. Some came alone, but most were accompanied by aides or spouses. Many were decked out in business attire, while others were in jeans after hourslong journeys.
These were the House freshmen for the 113th Congress who arrived on Tuesday to begin New Member Orientation.
Pulling up in front of the Capitol Hill Hotel in waves between the morning and late afternoon, they were met by a welcome wagon of House Administration Committee staffers.
They were given folders of pertinent information, identification badges giving them access to otherwise restricted areas of the Capitol, a U.S. House of Representatives tote bag and a key to the room in which they’ll be staying through the week.
And then, because official orientation activities don’t begin until Wednesday, the representatives-elect were on their own.
Some of them immediately darted off to meetings or events, showing they were prepared to “hit the ground running” in the truest sense.
Rep.-elect Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., who served two terms in the House before being defeated in the Republican wave of 2010, returned to Washington on Tuesday to pick up where she left off. Immediately after checking in her bags, she said goodbye to her entourage and headed to the Capitol to attend a press conference with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Other members of the freshman class didn’t seem in too much of a rush and took time to meet their new colleagues outside the hotel.
Rep.-elect Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who was declared just Monday the winner of a close race against Republican opponent Vernon Parker, received a congratulatory hug from Rep.-elect Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H. Two of the more conservative members of the freshman Republican delegation, Ted Yoho of Florida and Roger Williams of Texas, greeted each other with a handshake outside the hotel.
Anticipating what will be a packed 72 hours of briefings, presentations and receptions, many new members who arrived Tuesday were already thinking about how to fit in everything. Williams, along with Democratic Reps.-elect Lois Frankel of Florida and Marc Veasey of Texas, said they needed to find places to live.
Rep.-elect Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he was going to make sure he made his mark this week and when orientation picks up again after Thanksgiving.
“I want to be focused on finding the right committee . . . where I can contribute on day No. 1,” Cramer said, adding that orientation is a time for “getting to know the members of the steering committees, making appointments with them and making the pitch.
“Somebody asked me, ‘Well, how important is it to meet with these steering committee members?’ and I said, ‘It’s a higher priority than just about everything else on the agenda.’”
California Democrat Ami Bera, who is only narrowly leading in his race against orientation leader and House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren, R-Calif., came for orientation in case the election is called in his favor.
“We’re moving ahead so we can hit the ground running and start serving our district,” Bera said.
Rep.-elect Mark Takano, D-Calif., meanwhile, just wanted to find a place to clean his shirts.
“I’ve figured out one thing, that’s where to do my laundry,” Takano said, motioning to the canvas bag he had with him on the way to the laundry services in the House. “It’s like $8 a shirt here at the hotel. I’m not used to that.”