Incoming House Members Prep for New Job11/13 06:17
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Don't hire someone you can't fire, like the son of a
campaign donor or the child of the mayor. No matter what you may have said
during the campaign about changing Congress, hire enough Hill veterans to make
the office run smoothly. And make sure the person answering the phone sounds
like folks from back home.
That's only some of the advice headed for the historic class of House
freshmen of both parties streaming into Washington this week for orientation on
the nuts and bolts underpinning a job like none other. They are a younger
generation of lawmakers --- including a record number of women --- arriving
flush with victory and optimism. The Democrats are ready to take on President
Donald Trump in the biggest and most diverse class of new lawmakers since
"I hope that we are ushering in a new era," one of the class stars,
Massachusetts Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley, said Monday.
They are psyched --- if not exactly unified. Even among the new Democrats,
there's an uncomfortable vote looming on whether Rep. Nancy Pelosi, former
speaker of the House, should lead them. Rep.-elect Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., on
Monday became the latest House Democrat newcomer to say she won't vote for
Pelosi because she wants "new leadership." Pelosi has said she expects to
become speaker again.
Pressley and several of her classmates made their Washington debut in a
packed news conference whose setting suggested as much about the new majority's
intentions as the agenda they described. Gathered in the atrium of the AFL-CIO
down the street from the White House, they appeared as the newest members of
the ascendant House Progressive Caucus, dedicated to universal health care and
new climate policy. The incoming majority, including a gain of at least 32
seats, will be fighting a Republican-led Senate and a president with a history
of tweeting trouble for people who displease him.
And the newly elected Republicans are on the same side as Trump, at least in
But for both parties of newcomers, those big questions are for later. The
first votes on Pelosi, for example, won't unfold until after Thanksgiving. And
the new Congress --- the 116th session --- doesn't convene until Jan. 3.
Now, for many newcomers, it's a scramble to stand up offices in the warren
of Capitol Hill and back home in House districts that each represent more than
700,000 people. Every office has a budget. And every freshman who doesn't
already have a home in pricey Washington will have to figure out how to rent an
apartment, or just maybe just keep a rollaway bed in the office, on a $174,000
"We focus on getting them to appreciate that there are certain activities
that they have to do in the next 90 days," said Bradford Fitch, president and
CEO of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Congressional Management Foundation, which is
among those briefing new members.
The new crop of lawmakers includes a lot of firsts.
For the first time, two Native American women are headed to the House, in
addition to two Muslim congresswomen-elect. Massachusetts and Connecticut will
also send black women to Congress as firsts for their states.
But not every freshman is new to Washington.
Rep.-elect Donna Shalala of Florida was health and human services secretary
to President Bill Clinton. Former NFL linebacker Colin Allred of Texas is a
civil rights lawyer who also worked in President Barack Obama's housing
department. Andy Kim, a New Jersey Democrat, is an Obama administration alumnus
who served as a civilian adviser in Iraq.
Whatever their background, every newly elected member is heading for a job
as one of 435 colleagues in Washington juggling what can sometimes be a
seven-day-a-week job of votes, constituent requests and committee meetings. All
the while, those who intend to return are already thinking about --- and soon
will be fundraising for --- their re-election campaigns in 2020.
But first things first, said Fitch. At the progressive caucus briefing for
new members on Monday, he handed out a 300-page book, "Setting Course: A
Congressional Management Guide," updated for the incoming Congress. It sets out
everything from hiring a core staff in November and December to the culture of
Chapter One talks about Dos and Don'ts of these first days. Do learn to
delegate, for example. Don't "skip the House/Senate orientations and party
And don't "try to do everything."
During this period, "they don't have to come up with a solution to the
Middle East crisis," Fitch said.