There was a sleeping bag in Rep. Scott Perry's wife's minivan, and he had plans to buy an air mattress.
Those items and the floor of his new office in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C., represented Perry's only plans for nightly slumber after taking his seat in the 113th Congress Thursday, he said.
He was one of dozens of new members sworn in after the U.S. House of Representatives convened around noon.
In the first vote of the session, Perry voted to retain Ohio Rep. John Boehner as Speaker of the House. The top Republican has in recent days been criticized by members of his own party for his leadership on discussions such as the so-called "fiscal cliff," but no GOP challenger was put forth.
Perry said before the vote that he has at times been disappointed with where Boehner takes the caucus, but he has "basically" done well. The new congressman said it was unlikely he would have voted for the cliff deal Boehner struck earlier this week because it didn't do enough to cut spending.
But his first vote on the House floor was a vote for Boehner. After the new congressman called out the Ohio congressman's name, applause broke out in a room full of Perry supporters who were watching on television in an office building across from the Capitol.
The new congressman was sworn in shortly after Boehner, with the Speaker administering the oath of office en masse to all newly elected representatives. Boehner then called the House to order, with a ceremonial swearing-in held later in the afternoon.
Clashes ahead? While Boehner took heat from both sides of the aisle for delaying a relief package for victims of Hurricane Sandy earlier this week, Perry said he wouldn't vote for a relief bill that includes "pork" projects for unaffected areas. The government is "broke," he said, and legislators don't need to pile on spending to worsen its circumstances.
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A conservative Republican, Perry joins a House and a government bitterly divided over the national debt, the debt ceiling, and other fiscal issues.
Over the next two months, he and other representatives will debate whether to raise the country's borrowing limit and how to deal with $109 billion in scheduled cuts to defense and other areas.
Though the rest of the Pennsylvania delegation voted for the fiscal cliff deal to preserve tax cuts for the middle class, Perry said the bill didn't address the deficit reduction and "runaway debt" that's the primary concern of most people he's spoken to in the 4th District.
The cliff deal only "kicked the can down the road again," Perry said, and he's a "reformer" who wants less debt. Confronting the debt ceiling, he wants to see legislation that significantly reduces spending in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. A colonel in the Pennsylvania National Guard, he said military cuts should also be included.
Busload of supporters: York area Republicans chartered a 55-person coach to transport Perry supporters to his first day, though they had to watch the House floor proceedings on a television from an office building across the street. Prominent GOP supporters were among those who made the trek, including state Rep. Mike Regan, R-Carroll Township, who won Perry's vacated seat in the state House.
Perry's wife and two young daughters were in tow, with the 1-year-old and 3-year-old commanding coos from staff and supporters.
His mother, Cecile Coble of Dillsburg, said Thursday was "overwhelming."
She said her son came from an unprivileged background, and she's amazed at his success.
Perry said Thursday that he was nervous - for the future of the country.
While President Barack Obama might assume his election victory is a mandate, Perry said he could use the same argument and he won his district by a much wider margin than Obama won the country.
His immediate priorities are a balanced budget amendment and, of more local significance, a piece of predecessor Todd Platts' legislation authorizing the National Park Service to take over a historic train station in Gettysburg.
As the sleeping bag suggests, Perry said he plans to commute as Platts did, but he probably won't be making it home as often.
The commute is longer for Perry, who said his Dillsburg home is several miles north of Platts' residence in Spring Garden Township.
- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.