Heard on the Hill

New Faces of the House Eager to Get to Work

House members-elect will return after Thanksgiving

Rep.-elect Lou Correa, D-California, gives a thumbs up following the 115th Congress freshman class group photo on the House steps on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

From lunches to tours to briefings, the newly elected House freshmen experienced the traditional new member orientation much like one new students have in college.

As eager and determined as they arrived, questions — especially for directions — loomed over confused faces during the first week, which started on Monday.

“How do I do it best so I don’t screw anything up for anybody,” Brian Mast, R-Florida, said as he left a welcome to the Hill lunch on Tuesday.

[The Week When the Capitol Is Like College in the Fall]

Mast was one of the most popular members of the freshman class and always had a media huddle around him. He lost both of his legs when an explosive device detonated on him in Afghanistan.

“There are about 60 of us here and we’re all in the same boat. This is all new to us,” Lloyd K. Smucker, R-Pennsylvania, said after the lunch. “There’s a lot you have in common with people here despite the fact that there’s of course a lot of differences.”

He said he did not know any members beforehand who he didn’t meet through the campaign.

On the other hand, Illinois’ congressmen-elect Democrats Raja Krishnamoorthi and Brad Schneider knew one another before they came to Washington, Krishnamoorthi said after a series of new member briefings on Wednesday.

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“It’s like college or high school orientation in a sense that you’re meeting a lot of new people in a different place and I think we’re all trying to find our way, like literally navigate the halls of Congress,” he said. “I just hope there’s a GPS tracker on me.”

The Committee on House Administration runs orientation, which also includes the member-elect class photograph on the House steps.

“They've got you guys booked all day,” one staffer said to a group of members-elect.

Many freshmen came to orientation with at least one staffer, while several brought spouses and a handful brought their young children.

“We’re learning a lot this week, but it’s quite an opportunity to be here in a session, the 115th, where we’ve seen a strong message from the American people and I’m a Republican so to have the Republican president with the Senate and the House as well is a great opportunity,” Smucker said. “It’s exciting.”

He delivered a warm-up speech for president-elect Donald Trump at a rally in Lancaster County a month before the election.

[Newly Elected House Members Arrive for Orientation]

Orientation is on hiatus for Thanksgiving recess and continues the week of Nov. 28.

“Early travel, great meetings, a lot of information and the main thing we take away is who to call once we go back home,” Ted Budd, R-North Carolina, said on Wednesday.

Early on Monday morning, members-elect were able to check in at the Capitol Hill Hotel before heading off to events.

“We got up here early Monday morning,” Budd said. “We had a great celebration on Election Night... we did a busy Wednesday of media follow-up, got a little bit of rest, spent some time with family, came back up here on Monday and we hit the ground running.”

Like Budd, many others traveled to D.C. after a historic election last week.

Mast arrived to check in out of an Uber by himself, while Jason Lewis, R-Minnesota, emerged from an Uber with staff in hand.

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Other new members are relatively close to Washington, especially Maryland Rep.-elect Jamie Raskin.

“I need an office and I need a staff then we can get to work,” Raskin said as he go out of his car parked in front of the hotel and said he just came from teaching at American University’s law school, where he is a professor in constitutional law.

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