Walking to the rotunda in the Cannon House Office Building, incoming Rep. Lauren Boebert said she’s trying to share her experience in Washington with her four sons back in Rifle.
“I FaceTime my kids just about every day. I take them on walks with me. I show them the Capitol buildings and we talk about the different areas we’re passing through. They’re very excited,” she said.
The Western Slope Republican has spent the past few weeks in new member orientation, a rite of passage that is often their first real taste of being a member of Congress. It covers everything from the practical (like how to sponsor and advance a bill) to the mundane (figuring out the maze of hallways and tunnels that make up the U.S. Capitol complex) to the fun (like mingling with the other incoming freshmen).
“I mean really, if I've learned anything, it's that the federal government does a great job at wasting money,” she said. “There's definitely been some value in some of these meetings, but I feel like it could have been a lot more productive.”
Like most things, the pandemic has thrown a wrench into orientation. It was longer than past years, the schedule was in constant flux, and some traditions — like the freshman class photo — had to be postponed until the new year.
Boebert thinks too much time went to things like educating members-elect on the use of masks — something she notes the news media already does — and not enough to legislation. Boebert herself made national news during orientation by asking Capitol Police about congressional rules for carrying a gun here.
She said the best part of her first weeks on the Hill have been the opportunities to get to know her colleagues among the other new representatives.
“We have a dynamic freshmen class and they are also inspiring.” she said. “They're also encouraging.”
Boebert is part of a new crop of conservative women who won in November, helping the 117th Congress set a record for both the total number of women serving and the largest number of Republican women ever in the House.
Boebert said the new Republican and Democratic members talk policy and bill proposals, asking each other what they want to do and what they want to accomplish.
“Really it comes down to: if there was one simple answer, it would have been done. If everyone had it figured out, they would be doing it. So right now, collectively, we're all sharing ideas and seeing how to best direct those ideas next year in Congress.”
She thinks the slim Democratic majority means people will have to deal, and that could help Republicans be productive “because we don't need too many people to come across the aisle to actually get some work done.” On the campaign trail, though, Boebert stressed she wasn’t coming to Washington to compromise.
For now, Boebert is focused on practical things, such as getting up to speed by doing a lot of reading and setting up her office (She was 11th in the office lottery and will set up shop in Longworth, and not in the basement). She is also getting her staff together and said she’s hired “a great team,” one that she expects to announce soon.
Boebert also used her first weeks to lay down a marker with Republican leadership on committee assignments. She’s hoping for seats on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has broad jurisdiction, and the House Natural Resources Committee.
“I want [leadership] to know that I have a goal and this is where I want to be for my district,” she explained.
Although she does acknowledge that it might be a tough sell; not a lot of freshmen make it onto Energy and Commerce, and Colorado already has one member sitting on both committees, the dean of the delegation, Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette.
Those committees have a lot of power over one big industry in the 3rd Congressional District — fossil fuel development. Joining them would help with where Boebert’s policy focus is: continued energy independence and to pursue, as President Donald Trump puts it, energy dominance.
Colorado’s oil and gas sector has been hit hard by the pandemic, as energy consumption has slowed. Boebert wants to see those jobs rebound.
“In my restaurant, when there's mud to clean up off the floor, that means that things are going really well because our energy industry is doing so great,” she explained.
Besides DeGette, fellow representatives Democrat Joe Neguse and Republican Doug Lamborn are also currently members of the Natural Resources committee.
The Colorado delegation has a chummy reputation in Congress. The Republicans and Democrats might disagree on policy but they generally get along personally and work together on issues specific to the state.
Boebert will be new to that mix. She tweeted in November that she hopes the delegation will work together to help keep the Bureau of Land Management headquarters in Grand Junction. While she campaigned with Republican Ken Buck this summer and has met with Lamborn, she has yet to talk with Colorado’s Democratic members, at least one of whom called her after her win but didn’t hear back.
“I have some meetings that are currently on my schedule to speak with them and connect with them and see how we can work together,” she said.
Gov. Jared Polis’s office confirmed he has spoken with Boebert.
As she prepares to take office in January, one thing that’s not high on her priority list right now is a COVID-19 stimulus bill. She said that’s something the current Congress should work on.
Even if that happens, the incoming Biden administration is expected to try to get more stimulus bills through next year. Boebert is skeptical of that idea, believing that loosening restrictions will do more to help the economy than passing federal legislation.
“I think Gov. Jared Polis needs to do more and let us reopen our state and get back to business,” she said. “That is the best stimulus package, letting us do our jobs.”
Boebert isn’t willing yet to talk about how she might work with, or against, Biden’s White House; she said she believes the presidential race is still unresolved and said as much to Trump that when she met with him at the White House recently.
“I told him, I want President Trump to use every bit of authority that he has to make sure that every legal vote was counted, only,” she said.
The Trump campaign has not shown any evidence of widespread voter fraud or any fraud of any amount that could change the outcome of the race — a Biden win.
Boebert said she was able to call her boys on her way out of the Oval Office; she said they were thrilled.