On Capitol Hill it feels more like a party than the first meeting of the 113th Congress.
Democrat Alan Lowenthal has taken the oath of office to represent Long Beach – He’s one of 14 California freshmen. Lowenthal, who brought his niece and grandson to the House floor, says he hopes the day’s bipartisan spirit prevails beyond today. He insists all the new members, Republicans and Democrats alike, are committed to each other to try to work together. "That’s why we were elected," he says.
He says everyone told him once you’re here, that’s gonna end. "You’ll get caught up in the way it operates and that will be the end of that."
But Lowenthal says he remembers former US Senator Alan Simpson saying, "the only way you’re going to keep that feeling is if you all keep meeting together."
That bipartisan spirit faced its first test this afternoon with a vote on House rules that contains a provision supporting the federal Defense of Marriage Act. That law prevents same-sex spouses from receiving federal benefits; it faces a challenge in the US Supreme Court. The vote was 228-196, split mostly along party lines.
The entire freshman class heads to Colonial Williamsburg this weekend for more orientation. There are no immediate plans for another bipartisan meeting.