(WBEN/AP) Congress is ushering in the new and the old - dozens of eager freshmen determined to change Washington and the harsh reality of another stretch of bitterly divided government.
Among them, former Erie County Executive Chris Collins, the Republican businesss executive who unseated Dem. Congresswoman Kathy Hochul in November's newly drawn 27th Cong. District.
Collins will be given the oath of office with other new house members en masse Thursday, but has plans to re-create the event with at least one local swearing in ceremony Saturday, and a ceremonial photo session with Speaker John Boehner later today.
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Eighty-two freshmen join the House - 47 Democrats and 35 Republicans. Women will total 81 in the 435-member body - 62 Democrats and 19 Republicans.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has faced a bruising few weeks with his fractious GOP caucus but seemed poised to win another term as speaker. He mollified angry Republicans from New York and New Jersey on Wednesday with the promise of a vote Friday on $9 billion of the storm relief package and another vote on the remaining $51 billion on Jan. 15.
There are 12 newly elected senators - eight Democrats, three Republicans and one independent, former Maine Gov. Angus King, who will caucus with the Democrats. They will be joined by Rep. Tim Scott, the first black Republican in decades, who was tapped by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to fill the remaining term of Sen. Jim DeMint. The conservative DeMint resigned to lead the Heritage Foundation think tank.
In a sign of some diversity for the venerable body, the Senate will have three Hispanics - Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and one of the new members, Republican Ted Cruz of Texas. There will be 20 women in the 100-member chamber, the highest number yet.
The start of the new Congress also offers a comeback for one lawmaker. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who suffered a stroke last January and has been absent for the past year, plans a dramatic return to the Capitol by walking up the 45 steps to the Senate's doors.
Anne Easby-Smith, left, and Trace Robbins, right, who work for House Speaker John Boehner, help to prepare the Rayburn Room on Capitol Hill Wednesday, where members of the House of Representatives will pose for pictures at an oath of office ceremony with Boehner. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The 113th Congress will convene Thursday at the constitutionally required time of noon for pomp, pageantry and politics as newly elected members of the House and Senate are sworn in and the speaker of the Republican-controlled House is chosen. The traditions come against the backdrop of a mean season that closed out an angry election year.
The new Congress still faces the ideological disputes that plagued the dysfunctional 112th Congress, one of the least productive in more than 60 years. Tea partyers within the Republican ranks insist on fiscal discipline in the face of growing deficits and have pressed for deep cuts in spending as part of a reduced role for the federal government. Democrats envision a government with enough resources to help the less fortunate and press for the wealthiest to pay more in taxes.
A deal to avert the "fiscal cliff" of big tax increases and spending cuts split the parties in New Year's Day votes, and the House's failure to vote on a Superstorm Sandy aid package before adjournment prompted GOP recriminations against the leadership.