Like other newly elected members of Congress, Reps. Frank Guinta of New Hampshire and Robert Dold of Illinois have come to Washington early this month for orientation. But the litany of instructions for setting up a new congressional office may be less dizzying for the pair of Republicans—they're freshmen for the second time.
Both Guinta and Dold first came to Washington after the 2010 elections as part of the Republican class that took back the House of Representatives that year. But they lost their reelection attempts in 2012 before launching successful comebacks in 2014, effectively riding two Republican waves into office.
Now, as the rest of their new colleagues learn the ins and outs of the Capitol, Dold and Guinta are trying to pick up where they left off, with some seniority already in the bank, old connections to remake, and ideas of how to do enough bipartisan work that their boomerang districts don't send them back home again in 2016.
Guinta and Dold are both still technically freshmen, affording them a vote in the freshman class's internal elections, according to House Republican Conference spokesman Nate Hodson. But they'll have the conference-wide seniority of sophomores because of their two years each of service, putting them ahead of nearly 40 GOP colleagues who are joining the House for the first time. That seniority, as well as time spent on top-tier committees in the 112th Congress, gives them a better shot at coveted assignments.
Dold, who won a close race in suburban Chicago, served on the powerful Financial Services Committee during his last stint in Congress. Guinta was on that committee as well, but only for a few weeks to fill a vacancy. Before that, he sat on the Budget, Oversight, and Transportation Committees. If they're able to swing their assignments again, they will be on the committee seniority rosters ahead of their fellow freshmen panelists, Hodson said.
Their experiences will be similar to those of their colleagues across the aisle with the same fortunes two years ago. When Democrat Carol Shea-Porter returned to Congress in 2012 after Guinta ousted her in 2010, she was left in seniority purgatory; she had junior standing in the Democratic Caucus, but "the only kind of consideration she got on the committee was that she was head of the freshman pack," Shea-Porter spokeswoman Marjorie Connolly said. "[S]he wasn't where she would have been had she had uninterrupted service."
The administrative side of legislating will be easier for these super-freshmen, especially when it comes to transitioning a big portion of congressional work: constituent services. Guinta and Shea-Porter have already transferred constituent case files twice, which should make this year's process practically routine (especially since Shea-Porter's constituent-services director, Olga Clough, has been involved in every one).
Every so often, the process of transitioning from one office to the next hits bumps, but most outgoing members of Congress try to make it as smooth as possible. After all, Guinta had to do it two years ago.
"Rather than somebody having to start fresh with data, information, documents," Guinta said, "those will be seamlessly transferred so we can hit the ground running when I take office."
And in the all-important office lottery, the two Republican congressmen were assured they would not be given intern cages or parking-lot views: they selected suites at least a full day before any of their freshman colleagues had the chance, according to Architect of the Capitol spokeswoman Laura Condeluci.
Both Dold and Guinta are joining a different Congress from the one they left; about one-third of House members will be new to them, thanks to a pair of tumultuous elections. And for the first time in their tenure, the other half of Congress is now under their party's control—though Dold, who emphasized bipartisanship in an interview, said that wouldn't affect his calculations on legislation. After all, his district is prone to flipping back and forth.
"Creating a situation where Republicans and Democrats alike are in favor of legislation," Dold said, "I think it increases the chances that it moves through the United States Senate, increases the chances that it goes to the president's desk and is signed into law."
CORRECTION: The original version of this story misstated Rep. Carol Shea-Porter's House Democratic caucus standing in 2012. She's in her third term.
Zach Cohen is a web producer for National Journal Hotline. Before joining National Journal in 2014, he interned at The Washington Post, Time Magazine, USA Today and PBS MediaShift and wrote about politics and government for New Voices. Zach was born and raised in New Jersey and got his bachelor's degree in international relations from American University, where he served as editor-in-chief of The Eagle, the school newspaper.