It was not an average freshman orientation on Capitol Hill. The coronavirus, reshaping the tradition.
“I am hoping that I'll recognize my new colleagues when I get to see their full face and not just their eyes,” said Kathy Manning.
Manning, who is the projected winner in North Carolina’s 6th congressional district, is one of three fresh faces from the Tar Heel State set to take the oath this January.
She and other newly elected members of Congress from the across the country recently descended on Washington for a series of meetings, where they learned the ins and outs of Capitol Hill.
Madison Cawthorn, the projected winner in North Carolina’s 11th district, says the days were busy.
“More knowledge than you could really fit into your head within that time. From sunup to sun down, you’re working all day,” he said.
The 2020 election shook up North Carolina’s congressional delegation.
Redistricting meant Democrats picked up two seats. Both of the winning Democrats in those races were women: Manning and Deborah Ross in the 2nd District.
“We now have more women Democrats from North Carolina serving in Congress than male Democrats, and it's a great group,” Manning said. “I think we’ll be able to work very well together.”
The election also brought aboard a new Republican: Cawthorn, who fills a seat left vacant by Mark Meadows, who left Congress to work as the White House Chief of Staff under President Trump.
Cawthorn, who at age 25 will be one of the youngest ever to serve in Congress, said he wants to help Republicans with public outreach.
“Something I’ll be able to do is perhaps lend my expertise at social media - being able to communicate messages effectively - so that we can actually transmit what our values are to the American people,” he said.
Taking office, North Carolina’s new members each have their own legislative priorities. Manning said she wants to focus on the pandemic response and healthcare, for example, while Cawthorn pointed to infrastructure and rural broadband.
However, finding compromise and getting work done in a likely divided Washington could be difficult.
In interviews, both Manning and Cawthorn could not even agree on whether to call Joe Biden the ‘President-elect.’
“Joe Biden will be president. He will be inaugurated in January,” Manning said.
“There definitely should be a process that says, ‘As we’re moving forward, we can definitely assist you in any transition we’re having.’ But until the election is certified, I don’t think he should [be called that],” Cawthorn said,
Cawthorn, Manning, and Ross will be sworn in in January.