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New Member Orientation Welcomes New Class of Lawmakers

Rep. Cheri Bustos checks in at 2012 orientation. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Cheri Bustos checks in at 2012 orientation. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Getting to know fellow freshmen, attending panels about the institution, and posing for a class photo are staples of orientation during the first year of college. The same goes for the first year in Congress.  

Orientation, set for the second week of November, will welcome newly elected House members and senators. Over the course of several panels and meetings, these new members will learn the ins and outs of lawmaking.  

The members-elect will arrive on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Nov. 12. House orientation is spread out over two weeks, while the 11 (and potentially 13 ) new senators will have three days to learn from current senators. “[Senate orientation] is unique in that most of the panels are lead by members. And so they can provide some keen insight, just on the very basics, for the new senators-elect,” said Mark Tratos, deputy chief of staff for the Secretary of the Senate, who organizes new senator orientation.  

The panel topics range from setting up congressional offices, discussing Senate ethics, lessons learned during the first term and adjusting to Senate culture. Tratos said the focus is “just really giving them the information they need so they can hit the ground running.”  

Tratos did not say when the specific briefings would occur or which senators would be addressing the incoming members. He did say decisions about who speaks at orientation are determined by Senate leadership.  

Across the rotunda, new members of the House stay in a Capitol Hill hotel for a week. The dozens of new members arrive on Wednesday, Nov. 12 and attend a reception the same day with members of the 113th Congress.  

The Committee on House Administration has been organizing the panels for months to properly prepare new members for their service in Congress.  

“Having been through this process myself, I understand that the New Member Orientation program is one of the most important activities each member-elect will participate in as they prepare to take their oath of office in January,” Rep. Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., the committee chairwoman, said in a statement.  

“Our Committee has been at work for months to prepare each new member with the knowledge they will need to be an effective member of the United States House of Representatives on day one of their service,” said Miller.  

On Thursday, members-elect will attend a briefing on office logistics, including how to manage their budgets, also known as a Member’s Representational Allowance. There are no events scheduled Friday, but new members will stick around for events the following week.  

The following Monday includes a class photo, a briefing on security and another briefing on ethics and support services. With no events scheduled for Tuesday, members-elect wrap up orientation with their room lottery selection Wednesday. Each member of the new class draws a number, giving them the order in which they will choose their office.  

Compared to Senate orientation, which is completely closed to media, there will be set media stakeouts at each House event.  

The events will be the new members’ first taste of life as a member of Congress, from interacting with media to forging relationships with their future colleagues.  

“There are so many things to learn, tips to be shared and relationships to be built that I’m really looking forward to the new member orientation,” said Rep.-elect Debbie Dingell, D-Mich, in a statement. “Not only will it be a great learning experience, it will be great to meet my new colleagues.”  

Correction 11:12 a.m. An earlier version of this post misstated how many new senators have been elected.  

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