House freshmen learn the ropes in Washington

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California State Assembly Republican leader Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) and Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) work to finalize a solution to the state's budget problem on July 24, 2009 in Sacramento. Bass now heads to the nation's capital as one of California's two new members to Congress. The other is Republican Jeff Denham from Fresno.

It’s freshman orientation — time to meet new friends, learn the rules, figure out how to get around the campus. In this case, the campus is Capitol Hill. Class begins today for the nation's newest lawmakers.

The new Congress won’t be sworn in until January, but the members-elect gather this week for what could be called “Congress 101.”

Newly elected representatives get a security briefing, tour the US House floor, and learn about parliamentary rules and ethics codes. On Wednesday, they’ll cast their first votes for party leadership positions.

Later in the week, House offices are the prize in a lottery. Freshman pick last, but because of the high turnover this year, more “prize” real estate than usual will be available.

California is sending just two new members to Congress: one Republican, Jeff Denham from Fresno; and one Democrat, Karen Bass from Los Angeles. They’ll have a lot of company: this will be the largest freshman class in Congress since World War Two.

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