Kids steal the show from lawmakers on opening day of 113th Congress

The halls of Congress resembled the first day of school on Thursday as lawmakers began the 113th session of the governing body, most of them joined by their children.

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The main order of the day was getting the members sworn in and settled. The mood throughout the Capitol was lighthearted, with plenty of hugs and shouts of congratulations. The hallways were more crowded than usual, with family members and visitors, and there was a notable increase in security.

It was the members’ day — but it was their kids who stole the show. They hopped around the House floor, ran up and down the hallways and posed for official pictures with their parents and congressional leaders.

Some even took the oath of office with their parents.

It’s common for members to bring their families to watch them take the oath of office (in the House, all lawmakers take the oath, while, in the Senate, only those who won election in 2012 were sworn in).



Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is sworn in at the Capitol.

Newly elected Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) was holding his youngest son — a 1-year-old with a blond mop of hair — during his ceremonial swearing-in. His son mimicked dad and raised his hand, too, pretending to take the oath.

During the oath-taking in the House, where members are sworn in en masse, two of Rep. Erik Paulsen’s (R-Minn.) four daughters sat in the front row with him and raised their hands. Afterward, they could be seen congratulating each other on being "new members.”

Freshman Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) was spotted feeding his young son, Henry, some M&M's as they stood in the hallway off the House floor following the formal proceedings. Henry, an adorable toddler dressed in a snazzy green tie and blue jacket, won the hearts of lawmakers and staff alike as he ran up and down the hall and then tried to get back into the chamber.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), whose mother died in the final weeks of the campaign, tweeted that she was wearing her mom’s wedding rings on Thursday. After she was sworn in, McCaskill left the Senate chamber to greet her daughters, who were waiting for her, offering big hugs.

But the prize of the day will probably go to the children of Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), who brought his son and daughter with him.

After House members took the oath jointly on the chamber floor, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) held photo-ops with individual members. 

Hanna’s son showed no interest in being photographed, however, and began to show signs of a temper tantrum. Hanna’s wife picked the boy up and carried him off. 

Meanwhile, Hanna’s daughter stayed behind with the Speaker after her dad left, posing happily for photographers. An amused Boehner stepped aside to leave the limelight to the girl.

The 113th Congress officially began at noon on both sides of the Capitol.



Vice President Joe Biden speaks to Owen Murphy, 4.

Vice President Biden presided over the Senate after the emotional return of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). Kirk, who suffered a stroke in January 2012, came back to the Senate for the first time. He climbed the stairs outside the Capitol with the help of Biden and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Most members of the upper chamber were on hand to greet Kirk before heading into the chamber to begin the new session.

Biden swore in lawmakers in large groups and then proceeded to the Old Senate Chamber for a ceremonial reenactment with individual senators. At that ceremony, family members were allowed to join the members and get their photograph taken with the vice president.

There were reports aplenty of Biden — known for his playful manner — doing some good-natured flirting with the wives and mothers of lawmakers.

When introduced to a few legislators' mothers, the vice president repeatedly greeted each one with a "Hey, mom!"

And while posing with newly minted conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Biden picked up one of Cruz's daughters, who had started whining. 

"Oh, it's not so bad. I know I'm a Democrat, but it's OK,” he told her.

It was also one of the few times lawmakers, whose pins give them special privileges throughout the Capitol complex, had to wait in line.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) gave a warm hello to fellow Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine (Va.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) while waiting for her turn, shaking hands and offering hugs to the senators and their families. 

On her way to the Senate bathroom, Warren ran into Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), to whom she offered another vigorous handshake and an effusive introduction.

Newly elected Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) had his wife and two children on hand for the ceremonial reenactment. He also brought his own Bible, telling The Hill it was the one that he used for his confirmation into the Lutheran Church.

On the House side, members had a full day of events. It began in the morning, when lawmakers stopped by the Speaker’s gallery — an area off the House floor.

There, House staffers stood behind folding tables with boxes in alphabetical order as members checked in to receive their member pin and voting card.

Lawmakers started gathering in the lower chamber at noon for the long roll-call vote for Speaker. The floor was packed with members and their children — so full that some lawmakers stood in the back because there were no more seats.

As the roll call of the 435 members went on, the packed chamber grew warmer and several of the kids fell asleep.

It was after 2:30 p.m. before the vote was finished and lawmakers were dismissed. Several of children were heard complaining of hunger as they left the floor.

Meanwhile, the hallways outside of the chamber were a logjam of lawmakers as they left the floor. 

Members congratulated each other, took pictures together, gave hugs and began one of their first duties: trying to learn their way around the Capitol, which is a maze of hallways and staircases. Several lawmakers were seen asking staff for directions.

For returning lawmakers, it was business as usual. Some, like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), were spotted grabbing food in one of the cafeterias while others went back to their offices.

Joining the festivities were several former members, who are allowed floor privileges.

Spotted roaming the halls and on the chamber floors were former Vice President Walter Mondale; former Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and John Glenn (D-Ohio); former Reps. Joe Scarborough (R-Fla.), Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.), Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Martin Frost (D-Texas); and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

Most lawmakers are holding receptions Thursday evening to celebrate their swearing-in and the start of the new Congress.

But Friday, it’s back to business as usual. The House is in session at 10 a.m. and the Senate is back at 12:30 p.m.

— Ramsey Cox, Al Eisele, Alexandra Jaffe, Vicki Needham, Daniel Strauss, Erik Wasson and Elise Viebeck contributed.

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