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Capitol Hill is a long ways away from Doug LaMalfa's rice farm in rural Butte County.

"To say you go to work in the House of Representatives is really incredible," the Richvale Republican said on Thursday, just hours after taking the oath of office as the member of Congress representing California's first district.

Rep. LaMalfa is one of 14 California freshmen in the new Congress, now making the final transition from the rough world of the political campaign to the historic halls of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. They face the monumental task of not just tackling the nation's problems, but also laboring in the shadow of the now departed 112th Congress -- widely seen as having failed to tackle almost anything.

"To represent the folks in Sacramento County, it is a real honor," said Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove. "But it also is a responsibility. We still face a lot of challenges."

Bera, the winner of one of the state's most hotly contested fall races, could be seen down near the front row of the House chambers on Thursday, visible from just about every camera angle as new and returning members took the oath of office.

LaMalfa had a pretty interesting seat too, sitting next to one of the most closely watched rebels in the House GOP caucus as the insurgents attempted to topple Speaker John Boehner.

But LaMalfa dismissed the speakership drama as more than some tiny rumbles within the Republican ranks.

"By and large, people were making a statement that they might like to have things go a little differently," he said during a News10 satellite interview. "So I think we can certainly work well with the Speaker to move along and try to accomplish good things in this upcoming session."

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, was chosen as expected to keep her post of minority leader in the House.

The majority of California's new House members served previously in the state Capitol, with most heading east directly from their positions in Sacramento. They bring with them not just the experience of being state legislators, but also of partisan warfare in the midst of a fiscal crisis. Perfect training, perhaps, for Congress in 2013.

Both Bera and LaMalfa think that their congressional predecessors failed to do their job, and say that no one in Washington should expect to get everything he or she wants. They both say reining in federal spending is important, though LaMalfa clearly is aligned more with his Republican colleagues in demands for a major reworking of government at every level.

The path ahead is unclear. Political convictions may be hard to reconcile with the sense of urgency for compromise.

"The country expects us to learn how to work together," said Bera. "And we have to learn to work together by putting country first."

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