WASHINGTON, D.C. — Dressed in sleek running gear with her hair tucked under a cap, Rep.-elect Mia Love stopped briefly by her new congressional office Monday to check in with her staff.
“I feel good,” the Utah Republican said midway through a miles-long run around the nation’s capitol accompanied by a trio of long-time friends from Saratoga Springs, the small Utah County town where she served as mayor.
With her official swearing in as Utah's newest member of Congress set for Tuesday, Love surrounded herself with family and friends and took what she hopes will become a routine route by the Washington Monument and other sites.
"I'm trying to keep as much of my life as possible," Love said, describing running as her way to "clear the mind" even though the blustery weather meant she was constantly fighting headwinds.
After conferring privately with her staff and pointing out to a visitor the historic charm of her office, which features a small balcony overlooking the street, Love was ready to head out again.
For the longest-serving member of Utah's congressional delegation, Sen. Orrin Hatch, Monday marked the final day without the security detail that comes with his role as the new Senate president pro tempore.
The Republican, in office for nearly four decades, will be third in the line of presidential succession behind the vice president and the House speaker, and preside over the Senate in the vice president's absence.
Hatch provided a visitor with an impromptu tour of the Capitol, including his spacious new office as president pro tempore that overlooks the Washington Monument and a special, "hideaway" office once used by Thomas Jefferson as a library.
Along the way, Hatch greeted everyone from interns to staff, and ignored a suggestion that incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, was in a meeting and couldn't be disturbed.
"Enjoy your last day of freedom before we follow you around," a Capitol security officer told Hatch. One of several calls Hatch fielded was from a member of his new security detail, informing him that he would now be driven everywhere, like it or not.
A member of the Senate for 38 years, Hatch will also be chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, that will handle much of the legislation dealing with the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, in addition to spending issues.
While Hatch said a repeal of President Barack Obama's signature health care law is likely not an option because it would be vetoed, there can be reforms made, at least until there is a new president and a new opportunity for an overhaul.
Hatch said he hopes to bring "some settling influence" to the Senate as president pro tempore. "It won't be a matter of trying to be a big deal or anything like that," he said. "I don't intend to act like I'm more important than I am."
Love may be new to Washington, but the first black Republican woman elected to Congress has been in the national spotlight since her close 2012 race against now-retired Rep. Jim Matheson, a Democrat.
Two years ago, national GOP leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio campaigned for Love in Utah and she had a prime speaking spot at the Republican National Convention that nominated Mitt Romney for president.
She kept her focus on Utah in her 2014 race against Democrat Doug Owens but never lacked for attention. Even before officially taking office, Love was a guest Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
Despite her prominence among the 57 new members of Congress, Love said she had to push hard to get what’s considered an “A” list committee assignment, on House Financial Services.
“This wasn’t just handed over to me. I had to work for it,” Love said. “While everybody else was doing their White House tours — they have all these new member things, these programs — I was actually out knocking on doors of steering committee members.”
She had initially hoped for a spot on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but said Utahns will benefit from her being on the committee that oversees the financial services industry, including banking, housing and insurance.
“We think about the American dream and we think about the things that Utah really wanted and that was financial security,” Love said, the ability to buy big ticket items like homes and cars while building savings.
She said she wants “to do everything I can to not put the focus on helping banks, helping industrial banks, helping credit unions. I want to be able to focus on making sure we can help people in the 4th District try and achieve some financial security.”
Other goals include repealing and replacing Dodd-Frank, the Wall Street reform and consumer protection act signed into law by Obama in 2010, and auditing the Federal Reserve, a favorite target of the tea party movement.
Love will join the all-Democratic Congressional Black Caucus on Tuesday. She has repeatedly defended House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, who reportedly spoke to a white supremacist group in 2002.
That pleased Hatch, who praised Love for having "stuck up" for the House leader and said she adds a new dimension to the Utah delegation as a conservative black woman that will be good for the state and for the GOP.
"She has the opportunity of becoming a real spokesperson in the Republican Party and becoming a real bona fide leader," Hatch said. "She's not afraid of work. Nor is she afraid of anybody back here, which I find to be delightful."
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