WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep.-elect Tom Cotton will venture to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to join a freshman class of more than 75 Republicans and Democrats for orientation.
The program, which will stretch over the next three weeks, is designed to have the newly elected lawmakers ready to serve when they take office in January.
Cotton, R-Dardanelle, and the other freshmen will learn the nuts and bolts of setting up and running a congressional office.
"This is freshman orientation for new members of the House so they are prepared from day one to assume the responsibilities and challenges that come with serving," said Steve Dutton, an interim Republican spokesman for the House Administration Committee.
Cotton said in a telephone interview that his top priority for the coming weeks is to hire a staff for his Washington and Arkansas offices so that there won’t be any gaps in services to constituents.
Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, has offered his assistance so that there is a smooth transition, Cotton said.
"We want to make sure that we don’t drop any balls for our shared constituents," Cotton said.
The orientation program will run through the week and resume for a second week after the Thanksgiving holiday. The second week will focus on the legislative process and will culminate with a lottery drawing to determine office space.
The freshman class will consist of at least 40 Democrats and 35 Republicans. The number will grow when winners are determined in seven as yet unresolved races. Five incumbents trail narrowly in six of those races. The other has no incumbent.
The GOP freshman class also includes two Oklahomans: Rep.-elect Markwayne Mullin of Westville and Rep.-elect Jim Bridenstine of Tulsa.
The freshman orientation coincides with the return to session of the 112th Congress. Legislative leaders from both parties are focused on addressing the "fiscal cliff" that the Congressional Budget Office projects would throw the economy back into recession.
At issue are expiring tax cuts that were first approved under President George W. Bush and automatic across-the-board budget cuts that would begin on Jan. 1.