Orientation for freshman-elect members of the 114th Congress took place in Washington, D.C., from Nov. 12-19. This is the second of two reports detailing events of that orientation.
• Nov. 17 — We continued our orientation program with a meeting of members of the freshman-elect class to elect a second member to represent us on the steering committee, which makes appointments to House committees.
The week before, we elected Rep.-elect Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma, to represent us, but later petitioned the conference (and were approved) to allow us a second position on the committee because our class is so large. We elected Rep.-elect Mike Bishop, R-Michigan, to serve on the committee. Afterward, we gathered in the House chamber for an introduction and explanation of chamber rules by the sergeant at arms and other staff members. The House chamber, the largest room in the Capitol, is where the State of the Union Address is delivered by the president.
One of the major differences between the state legislature and Washington is that in the legislature, we had assigned seating, whereas that is not the case here. Basically, when members gather in the House chamber, they sit wherever there is an empty seat.
At lunch, we heard from Chris Christie, New Jersey governor and rumored presidential candidate. Christie, who currently serves as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, gave us a review of the recent general-election results from across the nation.
Later that afternoon, we had an important program focusing on ethics and House rules. I also had the opportunity to meet with the incoming chairman of energy and commerce, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan. This is the committee that Health and Human Services falls under and, because I will be the only pharmacist serving in Congress, I have a strong interest in this committee.
• Nov. 18 — We had our traditional freshman-class picture taken on the steps of the Capitol. While this was an exciting time for us, the wind was howling and bitterly cold in Washington, which was especially tough on this South Georgia boy.
We had some free time that morning to conduct interviews for staff positions. My chief of staff and I conducted interviews for legislative director, who will advise me on issues I will face during the coming year.
After lunch, my chief of staff and I met with representatives from new-member services for an office-setup meeting, during which we reviewed how we are to set up our Washington and district offices. We also got to check out the offices that will be available during Nov. 19’s much-anticipated office lottery.
• Nov. 19 — This was our final day and, for many of us, it was the most important because we had the office lottery.
We began the day with a conference meeting, in which the speaker submitted his choices for committee chairmanships for approval by the conference.
Afterward, the lottery took place under the scrutiny of a room full of television cameras. After all returning House members chose their new offices, the remaining offices were available for incoming freshmen. Each of the 57 incoming freshmen drew a number out of a box to determine the order in which they would choose their office. The media found this process to be entertaining, as many freshmen danced, sung, etc., while going up to draw their numbers. One member had a staffer who is a former gymnast do a backflip on her way up to choose. Another member stopped and rubbed his bald head for luck before drawing. Taking a page from my college days, I resorted to much silent prayer, which once again worked as I got No. 5.
After all the numbers were chosen, we broke to visit the available offices before meeting back at 2 p.m. to make our choices. All in all, I could not have been happier as I got my first choice of available offices: room 432 in the Canon building.
Carter represents Georgia’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.