WASHINGTON, D.C.—After Republicans dominated midterm House elections two years ago, Democrats sent only nine new members to that year's congressional freshmen orientation. Lost among their 87 excited Republican colleagues, the small group was nicknamed the "Noble Nine," and went largely unnoticed.
That's not the case this year, as a new crop of 44 Democratic House members arrived on Capitol Hill for the first time.
The new class of fresh-faced Democrats came together for their first public appearance on Tuesday, taking several minutes to file in behind House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. They squeezed together onstage in the Capitol Visitor Center, filling it with bodies from end to end.
"Look at this," Pelosi marveled, as the new gang worked to find a way to all fit onstage. "That length of time it took for our new members to come onto the platform here is music to my ears."
Pelosi touted the diversity of the new caucus, which grew to nearly 200 Democrats after last Tuesday's election, boasting that it was the first caucus "in the history of civilized government to have a majority of women and minorities." The party caucus in 2013, she said, would have 61 women, 26 Hispanics, 11 Asians, and five gay, one bisexual and 43 black members.
Standing directly behind Pelosi was Patrick Murphy of Florida, who won a surprise victory over tea party favorite Republican Rep. Allen West. At 29, Murphy is the youngest member of his new class, and Pelosi chose him to represent the group.
"I just defeated somebody you all may know," Murphy said to applause from his fellow freshmen when he reached the microphone. "A guy named Allen West, you may have heard of him."
Before the election, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a memo declaring the death of the tea party in the House, citing West's struggle to hold his seat. New York Rep. Steve Israel, who chairs the DCCC, approached the lectern and described the new class as a group of "solutionists" not driven by ideology. (Time will tell if this is true.)
"With these new members, the tea party starts to roll back and problem-solving starts to move forward," Israel said. "And that's what this election was all about."
The soon-to-be freshmen members, who also include 35 Republicans, are spending the next several days in Washington, D.C., learning the ways of the House and their way around the Capitol. They will be officially sworn in this January.
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