U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker takes office
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker saw a lot to be excited about as he got ready for his first day in Congress.
He had a busy day ahead as he settled into his new office Tuesday morning. He planned to make a brief appearance at a reception for his friends and family, then head to the Capitol to be sworn in and begin casting his first votes.
Having served for years as a state senator, Smucker has had a good deal of experience with the legislative process. But he figured there will still be plenty of learning the ropes to do in Washington. The first step, he joked, will be figuring out how to get from his office to the House chamber.
But what Smucker said he's most excited about is the work that comes next.
"I'm just ready to get started," he said. "People are concerned about the direction we've been going in this country and I think we have a new opportunity here to change course."
A Lancaster County Republican, Smucker won a three-way race against Democrat Christina M. Hartman and Libertarian Shawn Patrick House.
He's filling the seat held for the past two decades by former U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts, a Chester County Republican who retired at the end of the last term. The district includes the entire city of Reading, a small part of southern Berks County, most of Lancaster County and part of Chester County.
'A lot of activity'
The first day of Congress is a bit like college move-in day.
The freshmen bring their families along for the occasion and host receptions for friends and supporters. For returning lawmakers, there's a bit less fanfare as they set up their new offices.
Lawmakers and their staffers welcome visitors as lobbyists roam the halls of congressional office buildings to hand out business cards and make introductions.
Smucker's office is on the infamous fifth floor of the Cannon House Office Building, considered to be the bottom of the barrel when it comes to Capitol Hill real estate. He was number 43 out of 50 in the newcomers' office-selection lottery.
But as he surveyed the room a half-hour after seeing it for the first time, Smucker said he couldn't be more thrilled with the space.
His only objection was the massive computer monitor taking up most of his desk. He has a laptop and prefers to use the built-in screen. But that was easily fixed as he lifted the screen off the desk and placed it on the carpet.
"There, that's better," he joked, eliciting some laughs from visitors.
Smucker said he imagines he'll spruce up the office a bit. But that's a project for another day. He said he's anxious to get to the real work.
With control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, Republicans will be busy as they seek to enact their agenda. Smucker said he's excited to be a part of it.
"There will be a lot of activity, a lot of change," he said. "We'll be advancing a lot of proposals that will be moving our country in the right direction."
Smucker's friends and family members stopped by the office to wish him well. Patrick M. Egan, a Lancaster County resident and founder of a building security firm, grinned from a seat in the corner.
He knows the building well, having spent plenty of time there lobbying for proposals important to the burglar alarm industry. But he said being an invited guest to a swearing in - let alone a friend's - is a first. He has high hopes for Smucker.
"I've known Lloyd to be the kind of guy who's going to roll up his sleeves and not just show up and hit the vote button," Egan said. "He's going to take the time to really know the issues."
'Rooting for him'
As Smucker took his seat in the House chamber, his family and friends gathered across the street in an ornate room in the Library of Congress.
The outside of the Capitol was visible through the room's large widows. But the reception's attendees were focused on a pair of television screens showing the action inside.
About 160 supporters and family traveled for the occasion. Many arrived on a pair of buses chartered to make the trip from Lancaster.
"I think that says a lot about this district," Lancaster County Commissioner Josh Parsons said as he looked at the crowd. "He (Smucker) has a lot of support and a lot of people rooting for him."
A shout of "there he is" as Smucker appeared on the screen with other members of Pennsylvania's delegation brought the room to a hush.
The crowd watched anxiously as representatives, in alphabetical order, cast their votes for speaker. When Smucker cast his vote for House Speaker Paul Ryan, the room erupted in cheers.
Carl and Cathy Rintz of Lancaster County were among the supporters who made the trip to celebrate Smucker's first day.
"It's a tremendous opportunity," Carl Rintz said. "I don't know how many times I get the opportunity to participate in something like this."
Rintz said he's confident Smucker will be a hard-working representative for the area. He's a member of the Penn Manor school board and worked closely with Smucker - who chaired the state Senate Education Committee - on several school-related proposals.
Shirley and Bob Cressman got to know Smucker as Lancaster GOP committee members. They founded a Republican club at the Willow Valley retirement community, where they're residents. Smucker's stopped by club events several times as a speaker.
It's refreshing, they said, to see someone take office in Washington who they know personally and have found to be friendly and down-to-earth.
"I think it's really, really exciting," Shirley Cressman said. "He is such a good guy."
But she joked that doesn't mean Smucker gets a free pass. His friends back home will be watching to make sure he remembers his roots.
"We're going to hold his feet to the fire," Cressman said. "And we're going to get after him if he gets too uppity."