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Freshman Feel-Good Week: Let’s Do It Again?

How do you sustain people’s interest over two separate weeks of New Member Orientation? One idea is to have the office lottery on the very last day of scheduled activities.

That, if nothing else, should get the freshman members of the 113th Congress back to Washington the week after Thanksgiving, when the second half of orientation picks up.

It will bring with it more packed schedules of presentations, briefings, receptions, luncheons and party meetings to attend, and new lawmakers will also be able to wrap up some apartment hunting and interviews with potential staffers.

But most of the members-to-be deny they’ll begrudge a second trip to Washington before their January swearing-in. It might have to do with the relationships that have begun to take shape in the freshman class.

It was easy to see which new members were starting to warm to one another at the class photo shoot on the Capitol steps Thursday morning. As Rep.-elect Grace Meng, D-N.Y., arrived at the last minute and scrambled to find a place to stand, fellow Democrats Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut and Joyce Beatty of Ohio motioned for her to stand in between them. As the group dispersed, Florida Rep.-elect Lois Frankel linked arms with fellow Democrat Mark Takano of California, as they made their way down the steps.

Later, Rep.-elect Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H., said she suggested to Indiana Republican Jackie Walorski that they and their husbands visit the D.C. music mainstay Blues Alley together. Walorski’s husband plays the saxophone, and Kuster’s husband is a jazz enthusiast.

“You can find a lot more that you have in common and let the differences wash away for now,” Kuster said of the bonding with her GOP colleague. “We’ll have our floor votes where we’ll vote down the party line, but let’s find common ground for now.”

Kuster, a congressional aide on Capitol Hill 30 years ago, also said she saw an opportunity to perhaps work on bipartisan legislation with Walorski. They are both from rural states and spoke about the importance of strengthening training for workers.

The importance of forging relationships with colleagues is also something Rep.-elect Joseph P. Kennedy III, D-Mass., has had instilled in him by all his kin who served in political office.

“I’ve gotten a lot of advice from family and continue to seek that advice, but one of the biggest things they’ve said is, those relationships,” he said. “You’re going to have an incredible privilege to serve with some absolutely amazing colleagues, so go out there and get the chance to meet them.”