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Long Island

Kathleen Rice, Lee Zeldin to be sworn in as House representatives Tuesday

WASHINGTON -- Long Island's two new representatives in the U.S. House, Democrat Kathleen Rice and Republican Lee Zeldin, will be sworn in Tuesday as Republicans take majority control of both chambers of Congress on the first day of the new session.

Rice and Zeldin will be among the 58 new House members -- 43 Republicans and 15 Democrats -- to take the oath of office when it is administered to representatives en masse on the House floor.

The Congress that Rice and Zeldin will join is expected to be a testing ground for both parties over the next two years as Republicans challenge President Barack Obama on policy and the budget in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

Rice, of Garden City, who represents a southwest Nassau County district, and Zeldin, of Shirley, whose district is on the East End, both expressed hope Monday that lawmakers will work to end the congressional dysfunction of the past four years.

"Especially leading into a presidential election, I think it's obvious that both sides want to get something done," Rice said.

With the GOP in the majority in both chambers, Zeldin said, "I believe that we all can do more, leadership and rank and file, with this opportunity."

Zeldin's first vote will be to re-elect House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), despite challenges from the right.

Zeldin said he kept his mind open on the vote but is pretty sure the speaker will be elected by the time he votes -- second-to-last in the roll call, before Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.).

Zeldin has gotten off to a faster start than Rice, aided by being in the majority and getting a boost from GOP leaders.

Zeldin appeared on "Fox News Sunday" over the weekend, making news by attacking the media for reporting that Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the House majority whip, admitted he spoke to a white supremacist group in 2002. Monday, pressed for the propriety of that speaking engagement, Zeldin said, "He shouldn't have spoken to that group."

Meanwhile, Zeldin has joined three House committees: Transportation and Infrastructure, Foreign Affairs and Veterans' Affairs. Rice is still waiting to hear whether she gets her choices of the Financial Services, Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs committees.

Zeldin also was named co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, which he said he'll use as a platform to argue for closer U.S. ties to Israel.

Rice said she has joined the New Democratic Coalition, which describes itself as the "pro-growth, fiscally responsible wing" of the party.

Zeldin also is ready to support the House Republicans' agenda for the first two weeks. He said he'll vote for approving the stalled Keystone XL pipeline and altering the Affordable Care Act by changing its definition of the full-time workweek from 30 to 40 hours and exempting newly hired veterans from being counted as full-time employees.

Rice declined to say how she'll vote until she has read the legislation.

Monday, the two new lawmakers were juggling the tasks of arranging their schedules for Tuesday while greeting friends and family arriving from Long Island to see them sworn in.

By chance, Rice and Zeldin chose offices that are just down the hall from each other in the Longworth House Office Building. They're still settling in: The bare walls smelled of fresh paint -- Rice chose yellow, Zeldin baby blue -- and the offices were still not fully furnished.

Zeldin aides expect at least 170 supporters, many of them arriving in two buses, for his swearing-in reception.

Rice said many family and friends will attend her reception in her office.

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