Washington — As soon as the 113th Congress was gaveled in Thursday, there was a new face in Connecticut’s congressional delegation, one member has been promoted from the House to the Senate and others have new jobs.
Chris Murphy, a Democrat who represented Connecticut’s 5th District in the House for six years, was sworn in as Connecticut’s junior senator, replacing retired Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.
Upon taking his oath, Murphy, 39, became the youngest member of the U.S. Senate. He’s also one of the least senior in Congress. Only eight or nine freshmen senators have less seniority than Murphy.
Murphy said he’s still resentful about his last days as a House member. Up to the last minute, Congress struggled to save the nation from a “fiscal cliff” posed by imminent tax increases and cuts to federal programs.
“It was a frustrating end to my House term,” Murphy said. “It doesn’t seem that chamber has learned a lot of lessons from this last election. I’m hopeful things can work a little more smoothly now that we’ve hit the new year.”
Murphy is also ready for one of the first things the new Congress must do. That’s find at least $110 billion in cuts to the federal government’s budget by March 1.
Murphy said he has done his best to shield education and research programs from cuts.
“That would really hurt Connecticut,” he said.
Murphy’s been given a job on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He will also sit on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Murphy said he comes to the Senate with “a mission” born of the tragic shootings in Newtown.
“That’s to make sure I lobby my colleagues on gun control,” he said. “I want to make sure there’s action while there’s still attention on [Newtown].”
Murphy is likely to be more ideologically attuned to Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., than was Lieberman, a maverick who left the Democratic Party to become an independent.
“Senator Blumenthal and I are going to work terrifically together,” Murphy said. “There are times we will part ways, but there are many more similarities than differences between us.
Blumenthal became Connecticut’s senior senator Thursday even though he’s only served two years in the Senate. That appears to be long enough for him to move up in the Judiciary Committee, and to win a new seat on the Commerce Committee, which has wide jurisdiction.
For now Murphy is operating out of a windowless, temporary office in the basement of the Dirksen Senate Office Building that was filled Thursday with supporters and family members, including Murphy’s mother and his young sons, 4-year-old Owen and 1-year-old Rider.
There was a carnival atmosphere on Capitol Hill Thursday, with receptions in nearly every office for family members and lawmakers’ supporters.
“There’s a real sense of celebration, but also you know, being part of history,” said Democrat Elizabeth Esty who was sworn in Thursday as the new representative of Connecticut’s 5th District in the House of Representatives.
Esty’s top priority
Like Murphy, Esty said gun control was at the top of her agenda.
Esty said she’s rented a small apartment on Capitol Hill, but will continue to commute to her home in Cheshire where she lives with husband Dan Esty — the head of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection — and with the youngest of her three children.
Esty’s husband, children, mother and mother-in-law witnessed her swearing in and the casting of her first vote, in support of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who will continue to be the House Democratic leader.
The rest of the Connecticut delegation, Reps. John Larson, D-1st District, Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, and Jim Himes, D-4th District were also sworn in to new terms Thursday.
As the longest-serving member — 22 years — DeLauro has become the dean of the Connecticut delegation.