Learning How To Be A Lawmaker: Washington Hosts New Members

Posted on November 14, 2010 in CNC NEWS | by
Description:WASHINGTON – Determined and often wide-eyed newly elected lawmakers learned how to vote, lobbied for committee slots and mingled during “freshman orientation.”
Transcript:I’m Elizabeth Wynne Johnson of Capitol News Connection. This Week in Congress was orientation week for its newly-elected members.  And New York’s newest Republican wasn’t about to miss out.ALTSCHULER:“You know they only give the orientation once, so it would be irresponsible if I didn’t come, but we are very much in the middle of the race and hopefully that will be resolved in the next couple of weeks.”As of Monday, the race for New York’s 1st district still had not been officially called, but Republican Randy Altschuler was ahead by some 300 votes. So, with one eye on the election scoreboard, Altschuler attended the meetings, listened to the lectures and otherwise dove in to this week’s crash course on All Things Congress. From how to set-up a congressional office and handle a budget, to how to electronically cast votes on the House floor.  And how to evacuate the U.S. Capitol in the event of an emergency. Never a dull moment, to Pennsylvania Representative-elect Mike Kelly.

KELLY: “If you have been here for a long time, it is probably like, yada yada yada, but for me, it is very interesting and it is fascinating to watch how things work.”

Even as the newly-minted (if not necessarily wide-eyed) lawmakers got schooled in topics like ‘ethics’ and ‘the rules of conduct,’ a kind of Congressional cautionary tale was playing out this week, as well.  The ethics trial of 80-year-old congressman and former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Charles Rangel.  The proceedings would end this week, with Rangel being found guilty on 11 counts of financial and fundraising wrongdoing.
Speaking of ups and downs…

It was a tough week for House Democrats in general.  For those who survived the midterm drubbing, the second largest in American history…


WU: “We’re number two! (chuckling) We’re number two in most seats lost.”


…a little gallows humor couldn’t hurt.  David Wu of Oregon had just emerged from the Democrats’ caucus gathering late Tuesday, where chastened politicians had spent hours taking turns …

WU: “And speaking their heart, their mind, election analysis, plans for the future.  I have never been prouder of our members of the Democratic caucus, and I hope that the same thing is happening on the Republican side.”

Maybe not exactly the same thing.  Where Wu and other Democrats had find the good in self-analysis, it was a different sort of challenge that befell Utah Republican Rob Bishop.

BISHOP: (chuckling)  “We could have done it a lot faster than we did.  There was a lot of applause and standing up and sitting down.  We could have been done in ten minutes, actually.”

Republicans had just finished electing their incoming leadership team to be led by Speaker of the House John Boehner.

BISHOP: “The reveling became kind of labor-some towards the end.”
Perhaps in part because it was all chest-thumping, no drama.  No Republican challenged any other for any of the top spots, noted Utah’s Jason Chaffetz.

CHAFFETZ: “That’s an important thing for us moving forward.  We’re very united.  I think that’s one of the messages of the non-thrilling votes we had – we’re very united.”

Considering the ideological range that stretches from moderate to Tea Party, perhaps he doth protest a bit too much.  Republicans did make a point this week of papering over past differences – on earmarks, for example.

Among Democrats, meanwhile, there was no shortage of drama in the leadership election process.

COOPER: “If you’re the captain of the ship ad the ship goes down, the captain is at fault.”

That was Tennessee Blue Dog Jim Cooper.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi faced – and ultimately survived – the calls from within the ranks to step aside.

In other news of drawn-out battles:  that would-be Representative from New York who attended orientation this week, even though his race had not yet been decided…?  That’s still going.  Ballots are still being counted in the race between Republican Randy Altschuler and incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop.

That was This Week in Congress.  I’m Elizabeth Wynne Johnson, Capitol News Connection.

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