orientation

Trailblazers and absences define start of new Congress
Plenty of firsts, as well as some notable empty seats

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is sworn in Thursday, surrounded by children in the rostrum of the House chamber on the first day of the 116th Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The first day of a new Congress is filled with ceremony and tradition, but there were a few things that set the start of the 116th Congress apart.

For the first time in history, a new congressional session began in the midst of a partial government shutdown. The swearing-in ceremonies and celebrations were clouded by the ongoing shutdown that’s now entered a second week. About a quarter of federal discretionary spending has run out, resulting in the shuttering of agencies and federal programs. But with the legislative branch already funded, there weren’t logistical problems on Capitol Hill that would devastate a high-profile day like the opening of a new Congress.

Moments from opening day of the 116th Congress
Pelosi gets speaker’s gavel, kids dab and floss, and Delgado frames the words they threw at him

Incoming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez takes a selfie with, from second left, Reps. Barbara Lee, Anne McLane Kuster and Jan Schakowsky. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The 116th Congress opened today with new members being sworn in and Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California reclaiming the speaker’s gavel eight years after she lost it when Republicans took control of the House.

Despite friction from the standoff over funding President Donald Trump’s border wall that led to a partial government shutdown, now in its 13th day, new members crossed the aisle to be greeted by old ones and celebrate with other freshmen.

An Office Swap Lands Ayanna Pressley in Shirley Chisholm’s Former Spot
Thanks to fellow Rep.-elect Katie Hill, Democrat will get her dream office

Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley swapped offices to get a space once occupied by Shirley Chisholm. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Ayanna Pressley had her heart set on a Capitol Hill office previously occupied by her “shero,” Shirley Chisholm. A fellow incoming freshman Democrat helped her dream come true.

At the high-stakes office lottery for newly elected members of Congress last month, Pressley called on an iconic former lawmaker’s good vibes, announcing as she approached the number-filled box that if Chisholm were still alive, she would be celebrating her 94th birthday. Chisholm was the first black woman ever elected to serve in the House.

9 New Members Who Previously Served at the Pleasure of a President
Newcomers to 116th Congress bring bevy of executive branch experience

There’s a group of new members of the 116th Congress who have served former presidents, including Reps.-elect Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., and Colin Allred, D-Texas. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A group of newcomers to Capitol Hill is bringing experience from the executive branch to the 116th Congress. 

They draw from a cast of former White House or Cabinet staffers and high-ranking officials from the administrations of the past two Democratic presidents. These new members, who once had to defend their administration’s policies, now find themselves on the other side of the table, promising oversight of the executive branch. 

Rep.-Elect Ben Cline Wins Raucous Office Lottery
Incoming Congress does the floss, impersonates Oprah at biennial tradition

Rep.-elect Ben Cline, R-Va., is seen after drawing number 1 during the new member room lottery draw for office space in Rayburn Building on November 30, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

It got raucous in the Rayburn Building on Friday as Virginia Republican Ben Cline pulled the lucky number during a lottery for incoming members of Congress. The reward was a coveted one: first choice of office space. 

Packed with 85 freshmen, plus their staff and press, the room erupted when Cline pulled the top number, giving him his pick of available office suites. He flashed a big smile as he turned around to face the crowd.

High-Stakes Lottery Will Land New Members in Capitol Hill Offices
While many newly elected say they are just happy to be here, choice real estate is at stake

Members-elect will draw chips Friday to determine which office space they’ll get for next year. Two years ago, Lisa Blunt Rochester, seen here, was fairly pleased with her number. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Every two years, the office lottery that closes out new member orientation becomes a delicate game of chance that will determine who gets choice workspace — and who must toil in the congressional badlands.

Each newly elected House member will take their chance and pick a numbered chip as they’re called by their last names in alphabetical order. The traditional room lottery draw is run by the Architect of the Capitol House Superintendent’s Office and kicks off at 10:30 a.m. on Friday. The chip number corresponds to the order in which they can choose an office.

Defeated Rep. Bruce Poliquin Calls for Lengthy Ranked Choice Recount
The Maine Republican would be required to personally foot the bill

Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, would have to overcome a more than 3,500 vote deficit in a lengthy recount to maintain his seat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Ranked-choice voting has a dedicated foe in defeated Rep. Bruce Poliquin

The Maine Republican called for a hand recount of ballots cast in the race for the 2nd District — the first election in the nation to use ranked-choice voting to fill a congressional seat — decrying the software used to allocate voters’ preferences as a “black-box voting system.”

Selfies on the Floor: Members-Elect Break the Rules While They Still Can

Members-elect took tons of selfies in the House chamber, breaking the rules before they're bound by them. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Freshman orientation has been full of selfies as the newly elected members of the 116th Congress get to know their classmates and surroundings on Capitol Hill. But many have been breaking a well-known House rule against photos in the House chamber.

At least eight incoming House members posted selfies in the House chamber to their social media accounts on Tuesday. Maybe the newcomers haven’t been briefed on the rules of decorum in the House, or maybe they got a pass during the exciting orientation tours.  

New Members of Congress Hit the Books in DC
It’s just like college, but with more catering

Newly elected members of the 116th Congress arrive in Washington today for new member orientation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Freshly elected faces will descend on Washington on Tuesday for the start of their congressional orientation, including a new session on workplace rights on Capitol Hill. If past years are any indication, they’ll be eating tens of thousands of dollars of food.

Lunches, tours and briefings will pack the agenda, and winners from around the country will mix and mingle like freshmen on a college campus. It will be their first taste of life as a member of Congress, from interacting with media to forging relationships with their future colleagues.

Opinion: To Filibuster or Not to Filibuster
The American public wants government to act

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer admits that the filibuster rule change instituted by former Democratic leader Harry Reid made it more difficult for his party to oppose President Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

To filibuster or not to filibuster. That is the question and only Senate Democrats can supply an answer. The choice is clear. More uncertainty for the country and putting economic growth at risk — or a willingness to accept compromise neither side may like but both can live with.

Yet a government shutdown looms once again, the markets are rattled and frustration is rising — especially for House Republicans who have sent bill after bill to the Senate only to have Democrats block consideration.