The office lamps were delivered, but not the light bulbs. Secondhand typewriters from congressional storage arrived, but no paper. And calls kept coming from people wanting to join the as-yet incomplete staff of Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah.
But the bedlam of organizing his new office did not dismay Orton, who was officially sworn in Thursday. After all, that completed a supposedly impossible dream for a Democrat from what had been considered the nation's most Republican district.The dream became a reality as Orton stood with the 434 other members of the House to proudly take the oath of office in the House Chamber - which was crammed with members' delighted families - as Congress convened.
While Orton savored the moment, other members from Utah were getting down to business -
including planning to quickly introduce legislation needed to complete the embattled Central Utah Project and a bill calling for a total nuclear test ban.
But Orton and the other 44 House freshmen and the four new members of the Senate - who include a socialist, a tree farmer and a veterinarian - took the spotlight as Congress opened.
After the official swearing-in ceremony on the House floor, Orton lined up with other House freshmen for private, separate swearing-in ceremonies with House Speaker Tom Foley, D-Wash.
Looking on as cameras clicked were Orton's parents, three sisters, a brother and other in-laws.
Orton was to be honored later in the afternoon at a reception hosted by Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah. More than 500 people had been invited, and Owens' staff openly wondered how many could actually fit into his office suite.
Owens' office - which is just a few doors down the hall from Orton's - in recent weeks has also been the home-away-from-home for Orton and his aides.
As Congress played musical chairs with offices as retiring members left and new ones arrived, House moving crews had been unable to deliver most office furniture to Orton's office until Wednesday - the day before Congress convened.
"It's crazy," said Billie Gay Larson, Orton's administrative assistant, as she moved among banged-up, second-hand desks and bookcases that came from retired members' offices.
"I have lamps, but the light bulbs haven't come yet. We don't know where our (two-room) office annex will be yet, so I had to send back our computer system."
That meant she and other staffers had to use old-fashioned typewriters. But they had to run down the hall to borrow paper, scissors and staples from Owens' office, and to borrow his Fax machine to trade data with Orton's Utah office.
Swearing-in ceremonies have become old-hat for Owens - who is beginning his fourth, non-consecutive term - and Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, who is beginning his sixth. Sens. Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, did not have to be sworn in again because they did not have to stand for election last year.
Owens wasted no time in introducing legislation, saying he would introduce two bills on the first day of the new session.
One is to raise the debt limit on the Central Utah Project to allow its completion. Owens and Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, came close to passing that last year, with different forms of the bill passed by the House and Senate.
But the bill died as House Interior Subcommittee on Water and Power Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., insisted on tying to the bill his proposed, controversial reforms for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation - which the Senate would not accept.
"The bill I will introduce will deal just with the CUP," Owens said. "I think reclamation reform will be handled separately, and may move this year before the CUP bill."
Garn has also said he is confident the bill will soon pass because all affected groups have agreed to its compromises - putting them months ahead of their almost-successful efforts last year.
Owens also planned first-day introduction of a resolution calling for the United States to support a total ban of all nuclear testing - including that performed underground in Nevada.
He said the United States has threatened to veto a change supported by the Soviets and other nations to alter the Limited Test Ban Treaty to also ban underground explosions. He said such action endangers renewal of that treaty, which expires in 1995, and that it could fuel a new nuclear arms race.
Owens also wrote to colleagues that "Iraq's aggressive campaign to develop nuclear weapons, coupled with its demonstrated willingness to use weapons of mass destruction in its arsenal, underscores the vital necessity for American leadership in combatting nuclear proliferation."
The risk of war with Iraq also threatened to either keep Congress in session or on alert to return quickly. It normally recesses for three weeks after swearing in new members for a "district work period."
House members were also awaiting anxiously a meeting Friday of the Steering Committee, which would decided members' new committee assignments.
Orton, a tax lawyer, has said he hopes for a difficult-to-obtain seat on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. Owens is still hoping for a long-sought seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee - which House Speaker Foley promised him in a Utah press conference.
And Hansen may become co-chairman of the ethics committee, and the ranking Republican on the House Interior Subcommittee on Water, Power and Offshore Energy Resources - which oversees the CUP.