Editor’s note: U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Georgia, and other area elected officials will contribute periodic columns during the upcoming legislative sessions. This is a report about orientation that he went through last week.
• Wednesday, Nov. 12: After a primary, a run-off, a general election and over 19 months of campaigning, I finally arrived in Washington, D.C., for orientation for representatives-elect of the 114th Congress. I actually came up late in the afternoon Nov. 11 after participating in Savannah’s Veterans Day Parade at the invitation of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies.
On Nov. 11, along with 15 other conservative freshman, I spoke with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, about the importance of maintaining our conservative values and promoting a conservative agenda during our time in Washington.
The day was packed with meetings starting at 8 a.m., when I had interviews with prospective staffers. At lunch, I attended another briefing with the Heritage Foundation, where we heard from former Sen. Jim DeMint, who now serves as its president. Afterward, I conducted more staff interviews and sat for one with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution before attending a reception for new members.
• Thursday, Nov. 13: We started our orientation in earnest with an 8 a.m. session that included an explanation of our Members Representation Allowance — the budget given to each member of the House that lets us run our offices. The majority — 70 percent in most cases — of this budget is personnel costs and, therefore, these hires are very important. I am fortunate to already have in place three of my most important positions — chief of staff, district director and scheduler — which gives me a leg up on most other freshmen. One thing that quickly gets all of the freshmen’s attention is the rule that anyone who exceeds his or her MRA in a given year is required to pay the overage with personal funds.
Just think — I have favored a balanced-budget amendment all this time, when all we really need to do is require congressmen to cover overspending with their personal funds!
Later that morning, I attended a meeting of the G11 group, which is comprised of the nine Republican representatives and two Republican senators from Georgia. We meet at least once a week to discuss items of interest to our state. Next year, this will be known as the G12 group since we picked up another Republican House seat during the last election.
After lunch, we had a GOP organizing-conference meeting, where over 45 incoming Republican freshmen were introduced. We also elected leadership for the 114th Congress. Most of the leadership races were uncontested, resulting in the re-election of Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Majority Whip Steve Scalise and Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The only contested race was for policy chair, which was won by Rep. Luke Messer from Indiana. We also elected our freshmen-class officers, and Representative-elect Ken Buck from Colorado as our class president.
• Friday, Nov. 14: We returned to our GOP organizing conference, where we spent most of the day debating and voting on amendments to the Republican House rules. Serving in the Georgia legislature for the past 10 years has given me invaluable experience with many of these processes, and although the people are different and the numbers are greater, the issues we debate largely are similar. Our leaders, particularly the speaker, carry much influence over the direction of the caucus.
Also, we adopted a map combining different regions of the country in order to get as much balance as possible in committee assignments. These assignments are decided by the steering-committee, which is made up of 32 members with representation from each of the 13 regions, leaders and certain committee chairs. Each steering committee member gets one vote with the exception of the speaker, who gets five votes, and the majority leader, who gets two votes.
• Saturday, Nov. 15: Our only meeting was the legislative-process overview seminar, where the various legislative processes are explained. We also were prepped on proper protocol for speaking on the House floor during debate of bills and the voting procedures. Our orientation continues this week.
Carter will represent Georgia’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House after the first of the year.