Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New House Members Try to Learn the Ropes

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New House Members Try to Learn the Ropes

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- When a staffer for new Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., needed congressional stationery, he was told existing stationery was a requirement -- a Catch 22 for an office that had been open barely an hour.

Tom Osborne's staffer had a trickier job -- trying to figure out where his boss, the famously reticent football coaching legend and newly minted Republican congressman from Nebraska, stood on firearms in time for a visit from a National Rifle Association lobbyist.

From procuring pencils to filling in ideological gaps, newly elected congressmen -- and their staffs -- face innumerable challenges.

"It is daunting," said Mickey Edwards, a former Oklahoma congressman who now helps run a program for new House members at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. "It doesn't matter what you did before, you stand there and look around thinking, 'Oh my God, I'm a member of Congress."'

There are 39 freshmen this year among the 435 members of the House of Representatives. In interviews with three of them, all confessed to being taken aback by both the job and the city.

For Osborne, who hadn't been to Washington since 1960-61 -- when he played with the Redskins -- the city has grown almost beyond recognition. "I know where I am if I keep to the main roads."

Davis, well-known in San Diego as a Board of Education member and then as a California state assemblywoman, said the sheer size of the House was intimidating.

Arriving in Washington as a freshman can often be disappointing for those who were stars back home.

Rep. Melissa Hart, a rising Republican state senator in Pennsylvania who won a landslide in a traditionally Democratic suburban Pittsburgh district, hoped that cachet would land her on the powerful Commerce committee.

Instead, the GOP leadership told her influential slots were not going to freshmen, so she settled for the Judiciary, Science and Financial Services committees. …

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