A Freshman's Baptism in Capitol Hill's Ways Series: First Year on Capitol Hill, Part One of an Occasional Series. One of One Stories Appearing Today

By Lawrence J. Goodrich, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, November 22, 1996 | Go to article overview

A Freshman's Baptism in Capitol Hill's Ways Series: First Year on Capitol Hill, Part One of an Occasional Series. One of One Stories Appearing Today


Lawrence J. Goodrich, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Within 24 hours after Anne Northup (R) was elected congresswoman, people started calling her for help in their travails with the federal government - everything from missing Social Security checks to passes to visit the White House. Now just two weeks after her election, she's on Capitol Hill trying to learn her new job, choose an office, and find a place to live.

The nine-year Kentucky legislator and mother of six has been on the go ever since, as the challenges of balancing family and career reach a new level.

Representative-elect Northup, like the other 72 incoming new members of the House of Representatives, spent this week in freshman orientation: going to meetings to learn about Congress's ethics rules, managing a congressional office, hiring a staff, committee assignments, and constituent services. She's listened to current freshmen discuss what they wish they had known when they came to Capitol Hill. She helped reelect the House Republican leadership. And she's tried to keep up with the messages, phone calls, demands for interviews, and requests for appointments. In her spare time, she's been looking for an efficiency to rent. Her husband, Robert Wood (Woody) Northup, and her two children still living at home will stay in Kentucky. She plans to fly home on weekends and during recesses. Respect for Congress Her biggest surprise so far? "To a person, the people I've met are very impressive. Compared to a state legislature, it's much different. Many people in the state legislature are citizen legislators.... They're in no way trained to manage an office, to manage issues outside their own experience." "I'm also touched by the amount of respect that still exists in this town for the institution of Congress," she says. Her colleagues "are truly dedicated to this country - whether {or not} we all agree on what this country needs. People really are motivated, because they felt like they could make a difference." Northup has also learned what it means to be a freshman member - you get the least-desirable offices and it's tough to get on the choice committees. She requested the Appropriations, Ways and Means, and Commerce Committees - three of the House's most powerful - but didn't expect to get them. At press time, she was hoping for assignment to the Banking and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committees. "Everything is falling into place," she says. "I've got the beginnings of a great staff." The number of job applications she's received has been overwhelming. …

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