By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Thursday marks a big day in Washington: The 116th Congress will be sworn into office.

Among them will be five new Minnesota lawmakers.

With the freshmen representatives comes a loss of leadership and some clout in Washington, but the loss of seniority is offset by one Minnesota congressman rising to a powerful committee chairmanship, and another entering Congress as a nationally known figure.

In the new Democratically controlled Congress, Rep. Collin Peterson will become the powerful Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, a position that will allow him to steer projects and policy in ways that can help Minnesota farmers.

Professor Kathryn Pearson of the University of Minnesota said, “The Agriculture Committee is especially important. It’s important both to Collin Peterson’s district in Minnesota and it’s important for agriculture policy throughout the U.S.”

Pearson says Minnesota’s least senior Congressional delegation in years will still have some clout.

Veteran Democratic Congresswoman Betty McCollum sits on the House Appropriations Committee.

Pearson said, “Betty McCollum is a long-serving member and a subcommittee chair, and she is also a close confidante of likely incoming Speaker Pelosi.”

Democratic Congresswoman-elect Angie Craig says she is upbeat about the opportunities for freshmen members in a House controlled by Democrats.

She said, “We are going to get sworn in and the first thing we are going to do is to try and open back up the government.”

A thought echoed by another new incoming Minnesota Democrat Dean Phillips. He said, “I have made a point in the early days here to meet as many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to establish the relationships necessary to do good work together.”

Congresswoman-elect Ilhan Omar has another currency that can lead to influence — she is already a nationally known figure who has attracted widespread media attention

Pearson said, “She has already been elected the whip of the progressive caucus and she is receiving a lot of attention, which is mainly a positive, but it will also come with critics as well.”

The Republicans obviously will be in the minority, which means Minnesota GOP freshmen Pete Stauber and Jim Hagedorn will have to fight to have their voices heard.

And while veteran Minnesota Representative Tom Emmer will be part of that minority, he is also the new Chair of the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee — a position that has enormous influence within the Republican party.

Esme Murphy

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