Republican Lynn Jenkins — the newest member of Congress from Kansas — spent her first day on the job trying to find a balance.
“It was just a very humbling experience when you think of all the history, all of the people that have come before you,” she said.
She took the oath of office from the House floor in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday afternoon.
“It was a swearing-in (ceremony). We said ‘I do,’ and now it’s time to get to work,” Jenkins said in a phone interview from her office in the Cannon House Office Building.
In November, Jenkins, the former Kansas state treasurer, defeated Democrat Nancy Boyda, a one-term House member from the 2nd District, which includes western Lawrence.
The 111th Congress, which runs through the end of 2010, convened amid a worsening crisis in the Middle East, continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a collapsing economy.
The events earlier in the day were mostly ceremonial. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, was re-elected to a second term as House speaker.
Also in the House chamber from Kansas, Republicans Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt and Democrat Dennis Moore also officially began their next terms. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who won re-election in November, also took the oath of office.
One of the major actions for the new Congress will be consideration of an expected economic stimulus plan when President-elect Barack Obama takes office.
Jenkins said she was eager to see what comes up. Constituents have already given her feedback, such as opposition to bailouts.
“On the other hand, if we can get some tax relief to families and hard-working Americans, that’s probably the best approach to stimulate the economy,” said Jenkins, who expects to learn her committee assignments by the end of the week.
Jenkins’ victory was one of the bright spots for the GOP in November’s elections, when Democrats increased their House majority. Democrats have gained 20 seats since the end of the previous Congress. They hold a majority of the seats, 256 to 178, with one vacancy.
She criticized attempts by Democrats to curb the power of Republicans to thwart legislation. The House debated a rules package after the swearing-in ceremony that included a measure making it harder for GOP lawmakers to offer alternative legislation.
Jenkins said the measure is an example of the partisanship that has frustrated Americans.
Jenkins is originally from Holton and is a certified public accountant.