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First Year Lawmakers Face Daunting To-do List

In a discussion with Gwen Ifill, four freshmen lawmakers reflect on their experiences thus far dealing with a recession, overseas conflicts, and the health care debate.

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    There are 35 Democrats and 22 Republicans in this year's freshman class. Before coming to Washington, they were mayors, entrepreneurs, engineers, philanthropists and teachers. And once they arrived, they were immediately faced with a recession, an increasingly unpopular war, and a high-decibel health care debate.

    How are they doing? We've invited four freshmen to join us here tonight, two Democrats, two Republicans.

    Democrat Jared Polis represents Colorado's Second District, which includes the cities of Boulder and Vail. The founder of two charter schools, he has also launched several successful small businesses.

    Democrat Donna Edwards represents Maryland's Fourth district, which includes Prince George's County and suburban Washington. She won her seat, on her second try, by defeating a 16-year incumbent.

    Republican Cynthia Lummis is Wyoming's lone member of the House, representing the nation's least populous congressional district. She previously served as state treasurer and in the state house.

    Republican Aaron Schock represents the 18th District of Illinois, which includes Peoria. At 28 years old, he is the youngest member of the Congress. Before coming to Washington, he served in the state house and as a school board president.

    Welcome to you all.

    Cynthia Lummis, I want to start and ask you the question I'm going to ask everybody, briefly. What's been your biggest surprise so far?


    Well, I've been surprised at how partisan Congress is. I came from a state where even though it's dominated by Republicans, there seems to be a very good bipartisan relationship in the Wyoming legislature, where I served.

    And, for example, we have more even numbers on our committees. Every bill is debated. Every bill gets a hearing in committees. We have three readings on every bill, so you have an opportunity to read the bills. There's no incidents where a 300-page amendment is dropped on you at 3 a.m., then you're voting on it the same day. So the partisan aspects of it have been surprising to me.


    Donna Edwards, how about you?


    Well, I think, you know, I share some of what Cynthia has said. I think it's been true that, while the policies and the politics are partisan, I've been able to develop, I think, really good relationships and friendships actually on the other side of the aisle. And I think that that took me a little bit by surprise, because it wasn't what I expected just watching on television. And so it's been a learning experience every day.


    Aaron Schock, I was surprised to hear that you were actually born in the 1980s. What has surprised you?

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