Pingree returns from a Congressional crash course

Dispatch from DC
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  November 26, 2008

Newly elected Democratic House Representative Chellie Pingree split her time between the mundane and the meaningful during her freshman-legislator orientation in Washington DC last week.

"I didn't run for Congress to choose carpet colors," she joked via phone early this week, but establishing her new office on Capitol Hill took up a good chunk of her time in the capital. While she hasn't yet made all her staffing decisions (she's gotten "tens of tens of resumes," she says), Pingree at least has her DC digs set up.

It wasn't all interior decorating, however. The new legislators participated in their first caucuses, got to know fellow members of Congress, and the Democratic newcomers helped make the significant decision to oust longtime Michigan representative John Dingell from his post as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; California representative Henry Waxman was chosen to replace Dingell on the influential committee.

While Pingree knows her politics well enough to stay mum on whom she voted for, she did acknowledge that Waxman, a progressive leader, "represents a real positive change" in Congress. She added that while seniority was obviously a factor, the freshman and sophomore legislators "made a difference in that vote" — which she sees as an indication of the wave of change that's sweeping DC.

"It's exciting to have a new president who you know is going to have a whole new way of doing things — and the political will to do it," Pingree said.

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