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A Week In The Life Of An Incoming House Freshman

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A Week In The Life Of An Incoming House Freshman

Politics

A Week In The Life Of An Incoming House Freshman

A Week In The Life Of An Incoming House Freshman

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/131396001/131406063" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Representative-elect Bob Gibbs speaks to a crowd of supporters at the Ohio Republican Party celebration on Nov. 2 in Columbus. Jay LaPrete/AP hide caption

toggle caption Jay LaPrete/AP

There were no surprises Wednesday when Republicans and Democrats chose their leaders for the new session that begins in January — just some new titles for familiar faces: The GOP made John Boehner its choice for speaker of the House and Eric Cantor its choice for majority leader.

On the Democratic side, current Speaker Nancy Pelosi easily withstood a challenge from Heath Shuler, a moderate from North Carolina, to remain as party leader in the minority. Pelosi's No. 2 in the Democratic leadership will once again be Maryland's Steny Hoyer.

Among those voting for the new leadership slates were the incoming House members elected for the first time this month — a big class that has been getting acquainted with the Capitol building and the legislative body it will be joining. Among the crowd is Bob Gibbs.

'A Historic Freshman Class'

This Gibbs is not to be confused with White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. This Gibbs is not a household name. He is a former full-time farmer. More recently, he's a conservative state senator from southeastern Ohio who defeated incumbent Democratic Congressman Zack Space.

"This is pretty exciting. This is a historic freshman class," Gibbs said as he emerged from an orientation session for new GOP members in the Cannon House Office Building. "Definitely the people in my district in Ohio, the people around America have spoken pretty loudly."

The days and nights of Gibbs' first week on Capitol Hill have been loaded with meetings, some with the entire incoming class, some with just Republicans, some with fellow Ohio Republicans, five of whom defeated incumbent Democrats this month.

There have also been events like Monday's noontime rally on the Capitol grounds, headlined by Tea Party favorites Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

Gibbs also spoke.

"When I ran this race, I made a commitment to the voters in Ohio's 18th District that I was going to do three things: cut deficit spending, cut the borrowing, roll back the tax increases and regulatory reform," he said to cheers.

Gibbs was also cheered when he told the crowd he'd like to see this year's new health care law repealed.

Accountability

On Tuesday, there was a tour of the House floor, rules were explained, along with the mechanics of casting votes. Along the way, there was information on how to set up his office and hire staff. Afterward, Gibbs said all eyes are on this new class.

"They know we're being watched," he said. "The American people are looking to hold us accountable and to make sure we do what we say we're going to do. I just think that the environment here — we've got a big challenge."

This is a huge freshmen class: nearly 100 new members in the House, 85 of them Republicans. But the numbers are less impressive than the wave of anger they rode in on. Everybody expects them to make some noise.

On Wednesday, seven-term Texas Rep. Kevin Brady said he's "very excited" about the GOP newcomers.

"As a conservative, I see them as the cavalry to help us turn this thing around," he said.

Meanwhile, Gibbs is balancing what he sees as a mandate to shake things up with some more mundane matters this week: He still hasn't found a place to live.

"That's another issue we're working on, too — cost of living here in Washington, D.C., is outrageous," he said, laughing.

There will be many aspects of Washington for the new member from Ohio to get used to in the weeks and months ahead.

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