My First Week in Office
Washington, January 15, 2015
What a day.
Last year, Jim Moran’s retirement launched Megan and me on an incredible adventure -- capped off when I opened the doors to my office in the Cannon Building this morning. This is the start of another journey, working for and with 8th District residents, some of the most educated and engaged constituents in the country. I had my first interview, 20 minutes on CSPAN, at 0730, followed by an open house for 300 Northern Virginia friends who braved the first snow of the season. It was impossible not to share their enthusiasm and excitement at the prospects the future holds.
Then it was off to the Capitol for my first official act as Congressman – being sworn in.
It was interesting counting the Republican defections from John Boehner in the election for Speaker, wondering if the revolt might lead to a second ballot.
The House chamber is rich with history and traditions (and a secret snack bar in the back). I had another 100 conversations on the House floor, meeting colleagues and reconnecting with some I have known for years. I thrived on bipartisan cooperation during my years as lieutenant governor in Richmond and hope to achieve the same with these colleagues.
Now that the formalities and ceremony are done with, it’s time to start working. Today was all about getting our website and social media feeds up and running. Twitter and Facebook add such exciting new dimensions to what I have always believed is one of the most important job of any lawmaker - communicating with my constituents and enabling their communications with me.
I had first votes today -- on terrorism risk insurance and amendments to rules affecting capital availability to small business. There was lots of running around on the House floor, whipping, educating, even changing votes.
After a very long day, I could not find my car. Actually, I could not figure out which tunnel led to which deep underground garage, and was rescued by one of my seasoned staffers. Next time, breadcrumbs.
Today was exhilarating. After practicing alone in my office, and ensuring with seasoned staff that I understood the protocol, I made my first speech on the House floor. The topic was supporting the Affordable Care Act in the face of an attempt to weaken the employer mandate. House Republicans had proposed legislation creating perverse incentives to cut employee hours in order to eliminate healthcare benefits entitled to full time workers. This bill put nearly half of all American workers at risk of losing their health benefits. As a small business owner, I know the importance of investing in our employees to create jobs and grow our company. I ran for Congress in part to help close the incredible income gap that exist in our country, not to perpetuate it.
Votes ended early today, giving me an opportunity to sit down with my Capitol Hill staff for the first time and begin sketching our
plans for the next two years. My crew is composed of an impressive cast of people from my campaign, staffers who came over from Rep. Jim Moran’s team, and some newcomers. We have eight staff (plus a few interns!) in the Capitol Hill office and five staff in the district office (off Edsall Road in the Alexandria portion of Fairfax County). The collective talent and dedication of this baker’s dozen is immense, and I know we will accomplish a great deal and serve you well.
Then it was on to Williamsburg for the freshman retreat with many of the other 57 men and women just elected in 2014.
Today -- and the rest of my first weekend as a congressman – I became a student again. The Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan source of policy and legal information for members of Congress, hosts a biannual conference to teach the congressional newcomers how the legislative branch operates. Civics class all over again.
Topics ranged from how to address people on the House floor to how to write a piece of legislation to statistics and arcana that only a government wonk could love. Fortunately, I am just such a wonk.
That capped my first week as your representative.
I failed to mention all the reading -- perhaps three hours a day, just to try to keep up with all the policy ideas flowing around me. The incoming volume of emails is pretty overwhelming, and it will be an interesting struggle to master this.
Please be in touch and let me know how your issue or your organization’s event can be part of future diaries. If there is anything my staff can help you with, I hope you will call my Capitol Hill Office at 202-225-4376 or our District Office at 703-658-5403. I look forward to working with you.