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Freshman Lawmakers Learn Congressional Guidelines

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Freshman Lawmakers Learn Congressional Guidelines

Politics

Freshman Lawmakers Learn Congressional Guidelines

Freshman Lawmakers Learn Congressional Guidelines

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/131348658/131350107" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Orientation for freshman lawmakers began on Capitol Hill on Monday. More than 80 newly elected House members are in Washington for a week of seminars and meetings that will teach them what happens after they take the oath of office.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

People call it a lame-duck session, but it may be more fitting to think of it as a hangover session.

INSKEEP: After the emotion, the spending, the euphoria and, in some cases, the devastation of the last election, Congress is back at work this week. That includes the lawmakers who were defeated.

MONTAGNE: Newly elected lawmakers are also in Washington, D.C. this week. They're preparing to start their terms in January.

NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports on freshmen orientation.

ANDREA SEABROOK: Come January, Republican Billy Long will represent Missouri's 7th Congressional District. But before then, he's got work to do.

Representative-elect BILLY LONG (Republican, Missouri): We've got to liquidate the auction company, liquidate my third interest in the largest real estate company in town. So there's a lot of things you got to get up to school on, up to speed.

SEABROOK: This is what the freshmen are learning in orientation this week: exactly how to comply with the rules and guidelines of the United States Congress.

Arkansas Republican Steve Womack said they need the help. The rules are complicated.

Representative-elect STEVE WOMACK (Republican, Arkansas): Financial disclosure, ethics, travel, gifts, those kinds of things, because we're all being swarmed by a whole lot of outside interests, and I think all of us recognize the great potential there is for a misstep along the way.

SEABROOK: And while the politics at home is over for the moment, it's only just begun here in Washington. There's that swarm of outside interests buzzing around. Lobbyists of every stripe are coming to call, and especially for this huge class of Republicans, the Tea Party would like to have a word.

National Tea Party leaders held a reception Sunday night to meet the freshmen before they started getting oriented by Republican leaders. Blake Farenthold of Texas was there.

Representative-elect BLAKE FARENTHOLD (Republican, Texas): I'm listening to everybody up here. I'm not tied into anything. But we've also got a leadership structure in place here that you've got to work within. So it's really a delicate balancing act.

SEABROOK: And there's even a good bit of politicking within the freshmen class itself. Later this week, the new lawmakers will vote by secret ballot for one of their own to represent the group in the House leadership, and Kristi Noem of South Dakota is asking for their votes.

Representative-elect KRISTI NOEM (Republican, South Dakota): The freshman class has a unique opportunity to elect someone that could be a strong voice at that table, that really would bring their needs and their positions to the table and really be firm about it.

SEABROOK: But freshman orientation is not officially about politics. It's about the rules. And that's what most people are worried about, says Steve Womack of Arkansas.

Representative-elect WOMACK: I'm sure I speak on behalf of all of my colleagues here: We just don't want to do anything wrong, and that begins with learning what wrong is.

SEABROOK: Lesson number one for how to be a congressman.

Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol.

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