Washington — The first thing Rep.-elect Elizabeth Esty did when she came to Washington to learn how to be the next congresswoman from the 5th District was to attend a dinner for the Connecticut delegation at the home of Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd.
“It was a good introduction to Washington,” Esty said.
But unlike other members of the freshman class of the 113th Congress, Esty knows at least a bit about how Washington works.
“The advantage of having lived here and worked here for eight years out of law school is that it gives me folks outside of the bubble of Congress that I can ask questions of — people in the policy world, not just the political world … who can help keep me grounded,” Esty said.
Esty is working out of a cubicle in a House office building and learning how to use the computers and phones and whom she has to hire. That’s part of an orientation session that will last all week and continue after Thanksgiving.
She is also learning the ways of Capitol Hill.
She was among a group of Democratic freshmen who served as a backdrop for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Tuesday at the Capitol.
“We may not have the majority,” Pelosi said, “we may not have the gavel, but we have unity.”
Esty and the other four members of the Connecticut delegation, all of whom are Democrats, remain in the minority after the Nov. 6 elections. The failure of the national party to win more Democratic House seats has sparked speculation that Pelosi would step down from her leadership post.
She has scheduled a Wednesday press conference to declare her intentions, saying she wanted to meet with the Democratic caucus first.
If Pelosi resigns as House Democratic leader, an ensuing reshuffling may give Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, a chance to remain in his party’s leadership ranks.
Larson is term-limited from staying in his post as Democratic Caucus chairman, the fourth-ranking position among House Democrats.
But if Pelosi retires and the Democrats who are now in the No. 2 and No. 3 positions — Reps. Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, respectively — move up, Larson is likely to run, with some competition, for the No. 3 spot. That “assistant leader position,” was created to keep Clyburn in a leadership position after Democrats lost the majority in 2010.
But there are other scenarios that could play out, including one that keeps Larson out of a leadership position.
“Everybody is watching and waiting,” said a Democratic leadership aide.
Democratic leadership elections have been scheduled for the week after Thanksgiving, giving lawmakers time to lobby for votes.
DeLauro currently serves as co-chairwoman of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and is likely to keep that job, which determines who gets what coveted committee slot.
Esty was hoping for a seat on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, but said that she “has been warned it’s an unlikely committee position for a freshman.”
She’s now eyeing more modest positions, perhaps on the Small Business Committee or the Education and the Workforce Committee.
“I have a particular love of and commitment to manufacturing,” said Esty who, with other members of Congress, will be sworn in in January.
Connecticut’s other freshman lawmaker, Democratic Sen.-elect Chris Murphy, whose House seat Esty won, is also in Washington this week for orientation.