The new Congress renews your spirit

I know the Congress is routinely ridiculed. I know it looks like that the Congress couldn't organize a one car funeral; I've watched lawmakers up close for years. But on this first day of a new Congress, there's something rewarding about seeing the new crop of members arrive in town.

As you walk the hallways of Capitol Hill today - especially near the areas where most freshmen lawmakers have their offices - you get a good feeling about the people who were just elected to the Congress, even if that might wear off in the months ahead.

There are fresh-faced staffers, brand new to Capitol Hill, struggling to figure out which way it is to their office and the nearest place to grab a bite to eat.

"This elevator sure is small," said a young female staffer as we all crammed in.

There are little kids everywhere in the halls of Congress today, many the sons and daughters of lawmakers, tagging along to celebrate the swearing-in of their mother or father, uncle or aunt.

Then there are the parents, the proud, beaming parents, some of whom lent their own time and sweat to help their kid get elected. They stand off to the side while you interview their kid, and what you see in their face is enough to melt the most veteran congressional cynic.

Some offices have people spilling out into the hallways, with a lot of back-slapping, smiling visitors to Washington, there to celebrate the election of their friend.

The line, for example, snaked down the hall outside the office of Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY), a former staffer here in the Congress; he won a seat in 2008, lost it in 2010 and won it back in 2012.

Now he was back, and his supporters were ready to celebrate.

On both sides, there was talk about what they wanted to achieve, even after watching the Congress almost implode over the last week on the fiscal cliff.

"We're ready to go to work," said new Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), whom I interviewed while his smiling parents stood off to the side, and his three small children enjoyed the scene.

"My oldest boy Jim came walking up to me and handed me a note that said, 'This is my best day ever,'" Mullen told me with the smile of a very proud father.

Two floors up, I ran into Mullin's new Sooner colleague, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who had his young daughter tugging at his sleeve while we spoke in the hallway of the Longworth building.

"It's a special moment," Bridenstine said, noting that his parents were also on hand, telling the story of how his father came in from the West Coast to help him with his campaign.

"It's just a really special experience to have your dad do that," he added.

Over on the fifth floor of the Cannon building, where freshmen routinely get the small offices, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) was another newcomer who was a bit overwhelmed by the moment.

"It's an emotional day all around with the family and friends," Collins told me.

"My mom and dad are here, my in-laws are here, and we've got a lot of friends from Georgia," Collins added as we stood in front of a window that looked into the courtyard of the Cannon building - in other words, not the best view.

"You can see the tip of the Washington Monument," Collins said with a smile, making the best of his out-of-the-way office space on Capitol Hill.

"When I came up yesterday and they had my nameplate on the door, at that point it didn't matter," he said.

Down the hallway, people were excitedly taking pictures outside other offices, standing next to the nameplates of other freshmen who had worked just as hard to get here.

They also had the smiling parents, the kids who were running around and making too much noise, and the staffers who were having a hard time figuring out which way it was to the elevator.

I always think about those kids who come here from outside Washington to work on Capitol Hill and think of my parents; my father came here from Florida, my mom from Wyoming, and they worked their way up in the halls of Capitol Hill. You never know how many of these new staffers will stay for years like my mom and dad.

I know most people can't stand the Congress. I know this place seems utterly dysfunctional at times.

But on this first day of a new Congress, there is reason to hope that things will work out.

At least for a few days.