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Newly-Elected House Members Take Part In Orientation Process

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Congressmen and Congresswomen-elect are in DC this week, taking part in the new member orientation process to learn their way around Capitol Hill. Washington D.C. bureau reporter Erin Billups filed the following report.

More than 80 new House members-elect have descended upon Capitol Hill. Among those getting the lay of the land are the city's two newest representatives, Hakeem Jeffries of the Eighth Congressional District that includes Brooklyn and parts of Queens, and Grace Meng of the Sixth District in Queens.

"I'm really excited to be here," Meng said.

Orientation for the incoming freshmen began Tuesday. Events are scheduled all week to get them up to speed.

"It's sort of Congressmember school 101," Jeffries said.

There's still some ballot-counting going on in a few races, but so far, House Republicans have around 35 new members, while Democrats have 49.

While they may have failed to win the majority, Democratic leaders have been celebrating their eight-seat gain and increased diversity.

"The first caucus in history, in the history of civilized government, to have a majority of women and minorities in the caucus," Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, said Tuesday. "You can applaud that."

"It's very important to have a diverse array of voices in Congress," Meng said. "This is truly representative of the country."

Most of the newly-elected members feel they were sent to Washington with a mandate, to help foster compromise, putting an end to brinksmanship.

"The American public all across America sent a clear message that extremism should no longer be tolerated in our democracy," Jeffries said. "We're tired of the obstruction. There are important issues that have to be dealt with."

As their office assignments are doled out later this month and their committee posts next month, both Meng and Jeffries are angling for positions on the House Judiciary and Transportation Committees.

"Especially after the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we really need improvements to our mass transit and to our infrastructure," Meng said. "We need to rebuild New York better than ever."

Both say they are a part of recovery discussions with the state's congressional delegation.
They will be officially sworn into office on January 3.

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