Congressman-elect Matt Cartwright says the notion he'll be a member of Congress in less than two months has sunk in, but he's not thrilled about what awaits in Washington.
Rising national debt, looming tax increases, gridlock and partisanship in a divided Congress with his Democrats controlling the Senate while the Republicans hold the House. And that's just a few of the issues facing elected leaders and the people who voted them in.
Before Cartwright, 51, of Moosic, is sworn in Jan. 3, he has a checklist of items to cross off. He'll start with down time this week that he will spend relaxing with his family, including two brothers who came from out of state to support him on Election Day.
Then the relaxation ends and Cartwright and other newly elected House members head to Washington for freshman orientation later this month. He also must begin poring through dozens of resumes for soon-to-be-created positions such as district director, office staffers, legislative aides, a legislative director, chief of staff and others.
And if that wasn't enough, he'll begin scouting potential locations for district offices.
During his acceptance speech Tuesday night, Cartwright promised Easton one of those offices. In a subsequent interview, Cartwright said ideally he'd also like to open offices in Pottsville, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, but he's not sure what his office budget will be like and whether four offices will be feasible. If not, he said it may come down to either Scranton or Wilkes-Barre or an office between the two.
Pottsville, he said, is likely to get its own office since it's the seat of Schuylkill County, the only county to be completely within the 17th Congressional District. The district also encompasses portions of Luzerne, Lackawanna, Carbon, Northampton and Monroe counties.
Discussions with the man he defeated in his party's primary in April, U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, have been ongoing and helpful with the transition, Cartwright said.
He has been a big help. It was he who talked me into making sure I have a Pottsville office, Cartwright said. He gave me good advice on that and quite a bit of other things.
Holden's staffers might come in handy, too, in filling some of the positions in Cartwright's offices.
When it comes to the partisanship that's plagued Congress the past few terms, Cartwright said he's hopeful the Obama victory on Tuesday will help ease the divide.
I have some hope that the uberpartisanship that's been occurring will be somewhat diminished, he said. It's that partisanship that's got Congress down to a 7 percent approval rating.
Cartwright has already begun reaching out to members of Congress to build relationships and is angling for a seat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He said he got calls Wednesday from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a congresswoman from Florida, and Nina Lowey, a congresswoman from New York, offering congratulations and assistance.
He said he is eager to meet the commander in chief.
I've never met President Obama, I certainly look forward to doing that. I have met Vice President Biden on quite a number of occasions and I'm proud to call him a friend.
Efforts to reach Holden were unsuccessful.