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Learning the ropes at the Capitol
Carter Buddy new
Rep.-elect Buddy Carter

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.

Monday, Nov. 17: We continue our orientation program this morning with a meeting of members of the freshman-elect class to elect a second member to represent us on the Steering committee. This is a very important committee as its responsibility is to make appointments to House committees.

Last week, we elected Rep.-elect Steve Russell from 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. This morning, we elect Rep.-elect Mike Bishop from Michigan to serve on the committee.

Afterwards, we gather in the House chamber for an introduction and explanation of rules of the chamber by the sergeant-at-arms and other staff members. The House chamber is the largest room in the Capitol and is where the State of the Union address is delivered by the President to both chambers of Congress.

One of the major differences between the state legislature and Washington that I notice is that in the state legislature we have assigned seating, whereas that is not the case here. Basically, when members are gathered in the House chamber, they sit wherever there is an empty seat.

At lunch we have the opportunity to hear from current New Jersey governor and rumored presidential candidate Chris Christie. Gov. Christie currently serves as chairman of the Republican Governors Association and gives us a review of the recent general election results from across the nation.

Later that afternoon, we have a very important program focusing on ethics and rules of the House. I also have the opportunity to meet with the incoming chairman of Energy and Commerce, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.). 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.

Tuesday, Nov. 18: We have our traditional freshman class picture taken today on the steps of the Capitol. While this is a very exciting time for all of us, the wind is howling and it is bitterly cold in Washington this morning, which is especially tough on this South Georgia boy.

We have some free time this morning to conduct interviews for staff positions. My chief of staff and I take advantage of this to conduct interviews for the legislative director position, which will be a very important position to advise me on issues that I will be facing during the coming year.

After lunch, my chief of staff and I meet with representatives from new member services for an office set-up meeting during which we review how we are to set up our Washington and district offices. We also have an opportunity to check out offices that will be available during the much-anticipated office lottery tomorrow.

Wednesday, Nov. 19: Today marks our final day and, for many of us, it is the most important because today we have the office lottery. We begin our day with a conference meeting where the Speaker submits his choices for committee chairmanships for approval by the conference.

Afterwards, the much-awaited office lottery takes place under the scrutiny of a room full of television cameras. After all returning House members choose their new offices, the remaining offices are available for incoming freshmen. A lottery is held where each of the 57 incoming freshmen choose a number out of a box to determine the order in which they will choose their office. The media finds this process to be very entertaining, as many of the freshmen do a dance, sing a song, etc., on their way up to choose their number. One member has a staffer who is a former gymnast do a backflip on her way up to choose.  Another member stops and rubs his bald head for luck before choosing.

Taking a page from my college days, I resort to much silent prayer which, once again, works as I choose number 5. After all the numbers are chosen, we break to once again visit the available offices before meeting back at 2 p.m. to make our choices. All in all I could not be happier as I get my first choice of the available offices — room 432 in the Cannon building.

Buddy Carter is the member-elect for the U.S. House of Representatives 1st District in Georgia.