My first days in Congress were a whirlwind! One week ago, I stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and took the Oath of Office with my children Abby and Nathan by my side, and my wife, brothers and 82-year old mother in the Gallery. In that powerful moment, I was filled with a sense of history, responsibility, and possibility.
I disagree with Speaker John Boehner on many things, but I appreciated his eloquent remarks about the sense of awe new members feel when they are sworn in and his urging of all members to sustain that feeling and remember that we are sent to Congress “not to be something, but to do something.” Amen!
My first opportunity to do something came the next day, when I voted for a bipartisan $9 billion FEMA authorization to allow disaster relief payments to continue. We have more to do on this issue in the weeks ahead, but most members of Congress agreed that this short-term relief was critical for communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
Then I was off to an intense three-day bipartisan policy retreat in historic Williamsburg with my fellow “freshmen.” We focused on issues ranging from floor procedures and budgeting, to healthcare, immigration, and even a discussion on cyber security with FBI Director Robert Mueller. I'm impressed with the new freshman colleagues I've met. They are a diverse and talented group of leaders who seem to genuinely want to work together and solve problems. (You might enjoy this L.A. Times story which profiled the freshman class.)
Finally, I received some great news last week: I'm honored to have been chosen to serve on the Natural Resources Committee and the Budget Committee (yes, with Paul Ryan himself!) These are terrific assignments that will allow me to engage in significant ways on issues of great importance to the 2nd Congressional District and to our nation.
The 113th Congress is just beginning, and I know the goodwill and high hopes I feel will be tested in the weeks ahead. Huge issues await: the need to increase our debt ceiling which may be reached as early as Feb. 15th; the $85B in automatic sequester cuts that take effect March 1st unless an alternative can be found; the looming expiration of continuing resolutions that have been funding much of the government (and the possibility of a government shut-down if a deal isn't reached); the imperative of enacting a sensible gun violence prevention measure in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy; an opportunity for bipartisan immigration reform; and much more.
It won't be easy. Congress will need to get to work -- and we'll need to work together -- if we want to tackle these upcoming challenges. But I am ready to get started.
Thank you for your support and friendship, and for the great honor of representing you in Congress.
P.S. For those who have tried to contact my congressional offices in the past week, thank you for your patience! With 84 new members taking office and no ability to hire staff or purchase equipment until last week, the transition has strained House resources and some basic things like phone and internet service and a functional public website are not where I'd like them to be. But we are making progress and will have full functionality in our district and capitol offices in a few more days.