Posted: 9:09 pm Sunday, November 16th, 2014

Freshmen lawmakers get their feet wet 

By Jamie Dupree

It’s one thing to run a campaign for Congress. It’s another to win a race for the U.S. House and Senate. And then, it’s a completely different challenge to come to Capitol Hill and not only work on issues, but also hire staff, set up a Congressional office and try to figure things out fast.

“Until you get here, I will tell you – it’s eye opening,” said Republican Rick Allen (R-GA).

“We focused entirely on the election,” said Republican Jody Hice, admitting he arrived in Washington with a lot to do to make sure his team is ready by early January.

“There’s a lot of places to get lost in around here,” Hice said with a smile.

At the start, the new House members are all staying in a hotel not far from the Capitol – just down the street from the basement apartment my parents lived in when they worked as staffers on Capitol Hill.

The first few days when the weather was nice, the entrance to the hotel was home to all kinds of reporters and TV camera crews, busily chasing after the new members who would pile out of a cab with a stuffed suitcase looking just like any other tourist in Washington, D.C.

Some were luckier than others, like Republican Barry Loudermilk of Georgia, who didn’t have an opponent in November – so he was already thinking about what needed to get done once he arrived in D.C.

The work also hasn’t been limited to just orientation and issues; as the new members are also prime targets for leadership races and more.

“There’s certainly a lot of lobbying going on already,” said Democrat Seth Moulton of Massachusetts. “A lot of ‘vote for this person or that person.'”

Moulton said one of his goals is to meet as many of the new freshmen colleagues as possible, and try to find ways to get things done in the future.

For some, being so close to the action was a bit frustrating, given that these new members aren’t actually on the job until the first week of January.

“I really wanted to take that vote in favor of the Keystone pipeline,” said Rick Allen. “I said, can you all wait until January to do that?”

Finding a place to live

Along with setting up an office, the new members also have to find a place to stay when they’re in town.

And Capitol Hill isn’t the cheapest spot to get a little apartment.

“I’ll probably be staying on friends’ couches for the first few weeks,” said Moulton.

“It’s a little sticker shock,” said Loudermilk with a big laugh for reporters.

“Wow, I’ll tell you,” said Republican Buddy Carter of the prices for places to live near the U.S. Capitol.

“It’s not like Pooler, Georgia.”