Colorado’s freshman legislators take their seats in Congress |

Colorado’s freshman legislators take their seats in Congress

David Accomazzo
Rocky Mountain News
Chris Schneider/Rocky Mountain NewsMark Udall, left, was sworn in as one of Colorado's two Democratic U.S. senators.

WASHINGTON ” For Mike Coffman, there was little time to waste.

“I think there’s a level of excitement to being a member of Congress,” Coffman said Tuesday. “At the same time, there’s a concern about hitting the ground running as much as possible given the challenges the country is facing.”

Colorado’s congressional delegation started its dramatic facelift today as one new U.S. Senator was sworn into office, another literally waited in the wings, and three new U.S. House members settled in to their first days on the job.

Out is Republican Sen. Wayne Allard. In comes Sen. Mark Udall, shifting over from the House of Representatives.

Also out are Republican Reps. Tom Tancredo and Marilyn Musgrave. In comes Republican Coffman and two Democrats, Betsy Markey and Jared Polis, who is replacing the promoted Udall in the district that includes Eagle County.

Meanwhile, Denver Schools Superintendent Michael Bennet is on Capitol Hill to witness the pomp and circumstance, all in anticipation of his own expected appointment to take Sen. Ken Salazar’s seat after Salazar is confirmed as Interior Secretary in President-elect Barack Obama’s cabinet.

Today’s schedule included a whirlwind of receptions and ceremonies as the newly elected members continue moving into their new Capitol Hill offices.

On the Senate side, newcomers are placed in cramped, temporary digs until their more elaborate office suites are prepared. So for now, Udall, who was escorted to his swearing in by Salazar, has set up shop in a windowless, basement space around the corner from the Senate stationery shop.

On the House side, Polis drew a low lottery number and got one of the dreaded, fifth-floor offices at the Cannon House Office Building – one of the most remote locations in the congressional complex, where not all the elevators go to the top floor.

Coffman and Markey are in the more convenient Longworth House Office Building, just like the people they’re replacing, Tancredo and Musgrave.

Today’s action was mostly ceremonial, but members of Congress are expected to hit the ground running in coming days with their first committee hearings and then some heavy lifting on an economic recovery package.

Polis will take a seat on the Education and Labor Committee, while Markey gets to work on the Transportation Committee – a key position at a time when congress is considering a massive stimulus package, including new spending on roads and other infrastructure.

Udall, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, will take part in Salazar’s confirmation hearings Jan. 15.

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