Ohio’s newest members of Congress take seats

U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty says she wants to spend her time in Congress building bridges.

And Thursday, she seemed to start her career in Congress doing just that.

Minutes after the Columbus-area Democrat voted for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, to be the next Speaker of the House, Beatty lined up with other Ohio U.S. House members to escort the winner of that election, John Boehner, R-West Chester Twp., in to the House chamber to accept the gavel.

It was one moment in a day that started with a 5:30 alarm clock buzz, included an emotional ceremony with fellow Congressional Black Caucus members and culminated with a Library of Congress reception for Beatty that included high school and college friends, family members and supporters.

“It’s historical,” she said. “It’s historical that I’m female and I’m African-American and it’s a new district.”

Another historic moment: This will be the first time two African-Americans have served in the Ohio delegation at the same time. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Cleveland, also serves in the delegation and is chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Beatty, a former businesswoman and minority leader of the Ohio House of Representatives, will represent the new Columbus-area congressional district, created through last year’s redistricting process. She said she’s been watching the previous Congress spar over taxes and spending, and hopes she can offer a spirit of compromise.

But, she said, “I am not willing to be in a position where we only cut and hurt those who can’t help themselves. I want to use the words “fair” and “equitable” a lot more.”

Beatty joins Reps. Brad Wenstrup, R-Cincinnati, and David Joyce, R-Russell Twp., as new Ohioans serving in the House. Wenstrup watched the proceedings — including the election of Boehner as speaker – while he sat next to his 7-year-old nephew, Mac Castellini on the House floor.

While Wenstrup watched House members vote on Boehner and Pelosi, Castellini counted the states above. He was puzzled: There were 58 listed. Wenstrup told him some were territories.

“That was what was keeping his mind occupied,” Wenstrup said.

Wenstrup, who defeated Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland, in a March 2012 primary to take hold of her southwest Ohio seat, said he realized he was starting at a divisive time. But he said he was prepared to fight to cut spending.

“I’m ready to take on whatever challenges there are” the Iraq war veteran said. “The one thing I learned through the Army was you find out what’s in front of you and you go to work. And that’s what we’ll do.”

Joyce, meanwhile, sat on the floor thinking about his father, a World War II veteran. He found himself a little choked up as he was sworn in. “He was so proud of his country,” Joyce said. “He always told us to love our country.”

After being sworn in, he turned to shake the hand of the congressman standing next to him, a veteran lawmaker who had been sworn in before.

“Ah, first time, huh,” the lawmaker said, seeing the tears in his eyes.

Joyce, who will represent the northeast Ohio seat vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Bainbridge Twp., drove to Washington, D.C., for the swearing-in accompanied by his wife and kids. But after surveying all the work Congress will have to do, he warned her: She might be driving back to northern Ohio without him.

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