A New Congress has been sworn in, and several of its newest members hail from the Sunshine State. They’re six men and one woman, all hoping to make their mark on Capitol Hill in Washington to do what they say Floridians elected them to do.
Thursday afternoon marked the start of the 113th Congress, and for some of its newest members, the swearing-in ceremony had them feeling all sorts of emotions from humbleness to excitement.
For others, like Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, they’re already looking at the job ahead. Grayson joins six other U.S. Representatives as the newest Florida members. The difference is he’s not a freshman. The Democrat is a former Representative, who lost his re-election bid in 2010. But, he came back swinging in 2012 and won. Grayson says one thing he’s hoping to do is clear up the misconception that “nothing can be done in Washington.”
"And, people who say that and people who think that, should not be running for Congress. The fact is there are solutions to our problems. In many cases, they're painfully obvious. The only thing preventing them is entrenched special interests, usually entrenched special interests that support the Republican Party," remarked Grayson.
"But, whether it’s the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, the fact is we can pull together. There’s no reason why we have to have 25-million people in this country who can’t find full-time work. The country is what we make of it.”
And, that’s why Republican Congressman Ted Yoho, says he ran for office to bring about change. He’s a veterinarian, who’s now serving the North Central Florida area, after defeating longtime incumbent Cliff Stearns.
“I’ve had enough," exclaimed Yoho, months before he won his bid. "I’ve had enough of Washington standing in the way of job creation. And, I’ve had enough of career politicians, who created this mess, insisting they’re the only ones who can get us out of this. As a businessman, as a large animal veterinarian, I feel I have a different perspective than the career politicians.”
And, he may not be the only one feeling that way. Republican Congressman Trey Radel serves the 19th Congressional District in Southwest Florida. The former reporter and current businessman called Congress in the past “dysfunctional” and says it’s time to work across the aisle and focus on what’s really important:
“I’m a freshman, I don’t have any misconceptions that I’m going to come in and change the world, sponsor legislation that will be blessed by the Speaker and Democrats, etc," said Radel. "But, what I can do is be a voice for my district, and like so much of the United States, it’s all about the economy, jobs.”
And, that’s a sentiment echoed by all the new Florida freshman, including the youngest House member of Congress, Patrick Murphy, who represents the 18th District serving the South Florida area. The 29-year-old ran against GOP incumbent Allen West, and defeated him last year.
Murphy is now looking at ways to rejuvenate the economy, including stabilizing the housing market, especially in Florida, which he says is one reason he’s been assigned to the House Financial Services Committee. The Democrat adds he’s also been working across the aisle on legislation that aims to help the state’s environment.
“When you have discharges from the lake, when you have things like Sandy that come through, and devastate our beaches. When tourism takes a hit, so does the economy," said Murphy. "In addition to that, so much of the real estate of the market, in the district, is based on clean water, clean air, nice beaches, etc. So, we have to keep that in mind, but it’s really our economy. So, a dollar spent on our environment, studies have shown brings back four dollars to our economy. So, it’s smart spending.”
Another fellow Democrat hoping to work across the aisle on several issues, like jobs, the economy, transportation, and Medicare, is the only woman of the new Florida bunch: Democrat Lois Frankel. She’s a former mayor and state lawmaker. And, she made a bit of history by becoming the first woman to represent the state’s 22nd Congressional District in the South Florida area.
“I liken the Congress to be like a car stuck in the mud and everyone keeps pushing in opposite directions, and you’ve got to get the car out of the mud. But you have to know when to compromise, because that’s the only way we’re going to keep this country moving forward,” said Frankel.
The other new Florida Congressmen are Ron DeSantis, a Republican, and Joe Garcia, a Democrat. DeSantis is a former U.S. Navy JAG officer and federal prosecutor, who will serve on several House panels, including the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees. Like DeSantis, Garcia will also be sitting on the House Judiciary Committee. He’s the first Cuban-American Democrat to represent South Florida in Congress.
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