- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2002

The 10 incoming senators spent their first official day at the Capitol yesterday for an orientation that included introductions to Capitol building officials and briefings on Senate floor procedure, Senate history, setting up their new offices and general "life in the Senate."
"I'm thoroughly enjoying it; I feel very lucky to be here," said Sen.-elect Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican. "Senator Lott and Senator Daschle have been very helpful; I'm trying to be a good student."
The two-day orientation is being hosted by Senate Republican leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. It continues today with briefings on Senate ethics, emergency plans and even a mock session on the Senate floor to give newcomers a feel for parliamentary procedures.
"They've got a great group coming in; they seem to be adjusting pretty well," said Sen. Wayne Allard, a Colorado Republican who was doing some work in his office and stopped by the Capitol to greet the newly elected senators.
The Senate's president pro tem, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, gave new senators a lesson in Senate history yesterday afternoon. And the current leaders of the Senate Rules Committee Sens. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat and Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican briefed the group on moving into their new offices.
Sen.-elect Norm Coleman, Minnesota Republican, said the orientation was helpful and he is "thrilled" to be in the Senate an accomplishment he considers "a minor miracle" after a competitive race. He said the orientation pointed out that seniority is important in the Senate, but said he does not mind his low rank.
"I'm not going to worry about office space and parking," he said. "I'm here."
He said yesterday's briefings provided "basics," like how offices are chosen, what kind of furniture is available, the function of the Senate Rules Committee and what days floor votes are typically held particularly helpful, he said, for lawmakers from distant states.
The day also included events for the new senators' spouses one being former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, Kansas Republican, whose wife, Elizabeth, is the newly elected Republican senator from North Carolina.
"We're having some fun today," Mrs. Dole said, adding that she already knew some of the information "from when Bob was in the Senate," but that some of it was new to her.
Sen. Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, and his wife, Karyn, briefed the newcomers on "life in the Senate" and its challenges for families, including where to live, where to find a doctor and what to do if there are security concerns.
"It's a big change for anyone," said John Cornyn, a newly elected Texas Republican.
James M. Talent, the new Republican senator from Missouri, has served in the House and said that while the Senate is designed to move slower than the House, he also has "a sense of the needs that are out there and the importance of actually moving the process and getting something done."
The new group already has notable government experience. Both Mr. Alexander and Mrs. Dole have served as Cabinet secretaries and tried to secure their party's presidential nomination. The group also includes four who have served in the House, two state attorneys general and one "new" senator Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat who actually served in the Senate for 18 years, retiring just two years ago.
Mr. Lautenberg did not attend yesterday's orientation but will stop by some of the remaining sessions, Alex Formuzis, a Lautenberg spokesman said, adding, "obviously he's been through some of them before."
Mr. Coleman said during one briefing yesterday, Mr. Lott touched on issues they would address next year, including the budget, energy and prescription-drug issues.
The other new Republican senators are Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and John E. Sununu of New Hampshire. Mr. Lautenberg and Mark Pryor of Arkansas are the only new Democratic senators.
Incoming senators are given tiny transition offices in the basement of Senate office buildings. They will get larger temporary offices in January and are expected to be in permanent offices by the spring.
That process is off to a slow start however, partly because the Senate is waiting to see if Louisiana Democrat Mary L. Landrieu retains her seat in a runoff election Saturday. If she loses, the newly elected senators may be welcoming one more newcomer to their group Republican Suzanne Haik Terrell.

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