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Washington — The newly elected class of U.S. House members arrived here for orientation this week and elected Michigan's two soon-to-be congressmen to leadership positions.

Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, will serve as freshman class president, and Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, will be the freshman liaison to the elected leaders.

The freshman president usually works to build relationships among the new members and help ensure they have a smooth transition into office.

“I’m an outsider to the system who has extensive leadership experience, and — it was not something that I sought — but my classmates decided that they wanted me to be their president,” said Bergman, a retired Marine lieutenant general who will succeed retiring GOP Rep. Dan Benishek in northern Michigan.

As the leadership representative, Mitchell will be the voice of the freshman class at the leadership table, meeting weekly with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and other leaders when Congress is in session.

“It’s a two-way role: communicating back to the class what’s going on and bringing to the leadership feedback from freshmen, questions and concerns,” said Mitchell, who is replacing retiring Rep. Candice Miller of Harrison Township representing Macomb County and the thumb area. “I’m thrilled to serve.”

Bergman said he met with Benishek this week and discussed several of the lawmaker’s initiatives, including a bill directing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to research the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions affecting children and grandchildren of veterans exposed to toxic contaminants during their military service. Bergman, a Vietnam veteran, said he plans to reintroduce the bill next Congress.

The incoming freshman joined the Republican Conference Thursday to hear from Vice President-elect Mike Pence talk about the next administration under President-elect Donald Trump.

Mitchell said Pence highlighted initiatives from a broad infrastructure program to repealing the Affordable Care Act to tax and regulatory reforms. “Those are off the top things that are going to move forward very quickly,” Mitchell said.

After the inauguration, “it’s going to be a fast-moving train,” Bergman said.

“They told us, under our new president and Republican Congress, there’s going to be a lot of things happening and plan to be here, plan to put in a lot of long hours, a lot of long days, a lot of extra sessions, to get done what the American people want done,” he said.

mburke@detroitnews.com

(202) 662-8736

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