Representative Dave Camp, who is recovering from treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, sat in the chamber with his children beside him. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, wandered the aisles with her daughter on her hip.
The opening of the 113th Congress had a decidedly first day of school feeling, with many of the members flanked by proud parents, as well as children of their own.
Some freshman members wandered around, half awe-struck and half bewildered, and many aides did not yet have business cards.
“We just moved in,” they said apologetically, over and over.
As the afternoon darkened to evening, House members lined up to have their mock swearing-in picture taken with Speaker John Boehner, narrowly and newly re-elected speaker of the House.
Representative Andy Barr, a freshman Republican, stood with his wife, Carol, and their 21-month-old daughter, Eleanor, whom Boehner kissed on the cheek. Eleanor promptly wiped it away.
“Oh, she’s a big fan of the speaker,” Barr said later. “She just hasn’t had a nap today.”
Representative Joe Kennedy III, the newest elected member of the Kennedy clan, was already fending off rumors that he had higher office on his mind on his first day in the House.
After Senator John Kerry, who will vacate his Senate seat if he is confirmed as US President Barack Obama’s secretary of state, pulled Kennedy aside for a chat, a reporter jokingly asked if Kennedy was considering a run for Kerry’s seat.
“I’m definitely not, so let’s get that as the very first thing,” Kennedy replied, with a laugh. “I’m very happy where I am right now.”
Over at the member photo check-in table, aides were offering lessons in Congress 101: “Remember, they warned, when you go before cameras to have your picture taken with Boehner, be careful what you say. The microphones will pick everything up, and members would be well advised to avoid a gaffe on opening day. There will be plenty of time for that later.”