As the 103rd Congress was sworn in last week, the four members of the South Bay's House delegation intensified their jockeying for everything from political leverage to skilled staffers.
Each groaned wearily of aching legs and sore feet, cramped offices and packing boxes, staff hiring and house hunting as they tried to adjust to the congressional routine.
"My feet hurt, the votes have just finished for the day, I've got family all over the place here and we're already 20 minutes late to the first of the three receptions we're supposed to be going to," said Rep. Jane Harman (D-Marina del Rey). "I've been a little busy."
With hundreds of new bills lining up on the congressional runway, however, the pace is not likely to slow any time soon.
With a scant two years of congressional service under her belt, Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) has become the South Bay's most senior representative.
Her focus during her second term representing Gardena, Hawthorne and Inglewood will be what she describes as the "urban agenda"--job training, job creation and economic development--to help her district recover from last spring's riots.
Fresh from her high-visibility work as a national co-chair for President-elect Bill Clinton's campaign, Waters has shaped a political agenda reflecting that of the presidential election. She breathlessly ticks off proposals she hopes to pursue through her senior position on the House Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs and her post on the Veterans Affairs Committee.
"The world has changed," she said shortly after being sworn in for her second term. "We have to learn and grow and change with it. We're going through a restructuring in America that's very painful, but we are slowly getting down to the business of making it work."
Her proposals include negotiating with banks to provide more money to inner-city communities in return for an easing of government regulation; urging the aerospace and defense industries to discuss what their employees need to perform new and different jobs, and finding money to pay stipends to the unemployed while they complete job retraining.
"So many of our answers are going to have to come from the business community, but I want to be in there trying to see what we can do to make this happen," she said. "We have so much to do, so much. And I'm feeling inspired."
Although new to elective office, former Carter White House official Jane Harman already has parlayed her lifetime of political contacts into choice committee assignments and a key legislative co-sponsorship.
Focusing on the aerospace and defense industries on which her coastal South Bay district's economy relies, Harman landed seats on the House Armed Services Committee and the Space, Science and Technology Committee.
Then she fulfilled a campaign pledge and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Freedom of Choice Act.
And she has not even finished hiring her staff yet, she said.
"There is just so much happening so fast," she said, noting that she is still negotiating leases for two district offices and trying to arrange a schedule that will allow her to be a weekend mother to her two children, who remain in school in Marina del Rey.
Through it all, Harman has been boning up on the weapons systems and defense programs built in her district so that she can help decide which should be preserved, scaled back or eliminated.
Defense cuts are inevitable, she said, but current world events--including the continuing threat from Iraq and reluctance among the former Soviet republics to disarm their nuclear weapons--might save some programs which otherwise would have been on the chopping block.
As she did during her campaign, she declined to discuss her positions on specific projects.
"I'm prepared to make hard choices," she said. "I don't know what they'll be yet, but that's part of my job description. And I want to make the choices in consultation with the district."
The transition from Compton mayor and minister to congressman has been no less hectic for Walter R. Tucker III (D-Compton).
As he and his wife worked to buy land and build a new house for their family in Alexandria, Va., Tucker also was working with other freshmen representatives to build the coalitions he knows he needs to make things happen for his blue-collar, Lynwood-to-Wilmington district.
He joins district neighbor Steve Horn (R-Long Beach) on the Public Works and Transportation Committee. He says he hopes to use the post to develop better transportation along the Alameda corridor, improving the flow of rail and truck traffic to and from the harbor area.
Tucker hopes that his second position, on the House Small Business Committee, will help him direct economic development programs toward his struggling district, while improving the networks he must build to wield political clout.