'Goosebumps Kind Of Day' For New Members of Congress

For new members of Congress, Thursday was a balance of apprehension and excitement.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio swears in members of the 113th Congress, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
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Shuffling around Capitol Hill Thursday for their swearing in, new members of the 113th Congress nervously acquainted themselves with their new role. With lofty goals in mind, the newbies offered a fresh perspective on the harsh reality of gridlock in Washington that plagued their predecessors.

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"The first things you hope to do is represent your constituency well and do the things they would do if they were here themselves," Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Scott Perry said as he walked into the U.S. Capitol for the last time before taking on his new title as congressman. Unsure of the protocol, he slowly maneuvered around security with his daughter in his arms. "It is very humbling," he says. "It is very gratifying to walk in the footsteps of the forefathers of the nation and it is a bit overwhelming."

Perry, like many new members on Capitol Hill Thursday, was not only apprehensive about his first day, but how he would balance his role as congressman and family man.

"That was my big concern when I was deciding to run," Perry recalls. "One of my reasons for running is I was concerned the nation was not going the way I would like it to be going for my kids. I hope to preserve what we have for them."

The first day of a new Congress is always full of ceremony, and a time for members to invite their families to the chamber. Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the DNC, hugged, kissed and braided her daughter's hair on the House floor after she cast her vote for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as speaker.

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Other new members waited in the halls for their husbands and wives to fasten their congressional pins on their lapels.

"It feels special and unique. It is a goosebumps kind of day," says California Democrat Rep. Tony Cardenas, complete with family in tow. Cardenas admits he has butterflies, but jokes they were not enough to keep him from Washington, where he hopes to pass comprehensive immigration reform this session.

While some walked the marble halls for the first time, for many others, Thursday was routine.

Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, who criss-crossed the country as Mitt Romney's vice presidential nominee, stood in line with his colleagues to receive his welcome packet in the speaker's lobby.

Members returning to Capitol Hill after the contentious fiscal cliff fight welcomed the new enthusiasm, but sought to remind their freshman colleagues that they will have to hit the ground running.

"It is unusual. We are in a more precarious, dangerous time economically then we have been in my lifetime," says California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. "Everything you vote on today has great significance to it. Now we cannot afford to make any mistakes."

The speakership election, which ultimately culminated in Ohio Republican Rep. John Boehner being re-elected, added an element of suspense to the day as members gasped when Oklahoma GOP freshman Rep. Jim Bridenstine was the first to vote for GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor for speaker. Cantor shook his head and loudly voiced his support for Boehner when it was his turn to vote. About a dozen Republicans abstained from voting or voted against Boehner.

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A few Congressmen voiced their support for outgoing Florida Republican Rep. Allen West. And Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp, who lost his committee assignment for not being a "team player" within his party, also voted against the speaker.

Huelskamp, who voted Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan as speaker, says he thought more might vote against Boehner.

"I didn't know how it was going to turn out," Huelskamp says. "In this town, the intimidation and pressure was intense. There were a lot of people who wanted to vote no."

Huelskamp says the conservative colleagues who posed a threat to Boehner's speakership were whipped hard.

"I think the arm twisting was very intense. Committee assignments were threatened, " Huelskamp says. "Folks who received money from the NRCC were warned they may not receive that money again."