Colorado’s two newest representatives are getting a crash course in Congress

Aside from learning the ropes and the myriad of rules, Caraveo said she used orientation to build collegiality with other new members, including Republicans, over meals and conversations on bus rides.

“Right now it’s about getting to know your classmates, the members that are already here, and how to build those relationships that will allow you to be a good legislator.”

The Adams County Democrat learned those skills in the state House. And she wants to apply them to issues she heard her constituents talk about over and over again on the campaign trail — housing, inflation and healthcare.

7th District Rep.-elect. Brittney Pettersen in Washington, DC, for new member orientation, Dec. 1, 2022.Caitlyn Kim/CPR News
7th District Rep.-elect. Brittney Pettersen in Washington, D.C., for new member orientation, Dec. 1, 2022.

Pettersen looks at building bipartisanship

Pettersen also stressed the importance of building bipartisan ties in the two weeks she was at the Capitol, “working with people who I might not agree with 99 percent of the things on, but there might be unexpected allies that have similar concerns on issues.”

Like Caraveo, Pettersen is drawing on her experience as a state lawmaker. For some of her time in the legislature, there was split control in Denver — a similar dynamic to what she’ll have to navigate in Washington, where Republicans will control the House in the next Congress. 

But Pettersen said she’s disappointed that there wasn’t more official time for new lawmakers to socialize together during orientation.

“You’re immediately invited with your leadership to dinners, but it’s partisan. And so I think that we need to work on setting a different tone with the new members. I feel hopeful that … we can bring in a new perspective around working together,” she said.

She’s already thinking about putting together a freshman dinner or reception once they are all back in the Capitol next month.

Committee assignments will shape both Caraveo’s and Pettersen’s work

One place both women will look to find people to work with will be in their committee assignments, once they have them.

Caraveo is angling to get a place on Energy and Commerce, a top-tier committee that can be a tough assignment for a freshman lawmaker to land.

The panel has one of the broadest jurisdictions of any in Congress. It looks at a myriad of issues important to her district and interests — from health care and health insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, to energy policy and travel, tourism and sports.

“Being a doctor, having that experience in healthcare is important. And also the energy industry and economy in the 8th District is something that I think merits our representation,” she explained.

She’s also looking at the Agriculture Committee or the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Pettersen, too, has her eye on the Transportation Committee. “It’s something that really affects, I mean, every part of my district, especially the rural investments that are needed,” she said.

Long term, Pettersen expressed hopes to get a seat on the all-important Appropriations Committee. But for the next two years, she said she’d be happy if she is assigned to Health and Education or Natural Resources or the Science, Space and Technology committees.

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