Congressman Tom Rice didn’t have too much time to revel in his success.

The freshman congressman representing South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District was sworn in with the rest of the incoming U.S. House members at a ceremony in the Capitol building in Washington on Thursday under a cloud of continued national turmoil.

Rice and the 113th Congress enter the legislature at the end of a tumultuous week that saw passage of a “fiscal cliff” deal most said was more of a Band-Aid than a real solution, Republicans questioning the leadership of Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, and a new debate over the debt ceiling revving up once more.

“I’ve heard a lot of people tell me ‘You picked a heck of a time to go to Congress,’” Rice said in a phone interview Thursday following his swearing in. “I always say, ‘I think it’s the best time.’”

Rice may have just officially taken office, but the former Horry County Council chairman set up shop in Washington, D.C. shortly after defeating Democrat Gloria Bromell Tinubu in November.

Among the continued orientation meetings, briefing and hiring his staff, Rice said he focused on rubbing elbows with as many of his colleagues as possible before Thursday’s swearing in. Now, armed with that knowledge and budding relationships with new members and House leadership, Rice said he’s confident he’ll “hit the ground running.”

“I came to these meetings when I wasn’t a congressman to be up to speed on day one,” Rice said. “I’m not going to say I have all the experience I need, but I’m well ahead.”

The hard work has already paid off in a way. Rice was assigned to three fairly significant committees, House Transportation and Infrastructure, Budget, and Small Business, all of which have the potential to be at the center of continued hot button issues facing the nation.

The previous Congress left on a sour note on Tuesday, voting for a Senate plan to avoid the “fiscal cliff” that many Republicans criticized for not addressing reckless spending, among other items.

All the Republican members of the South Carolina Congressional delegation voted against the measure, and Rice said he would have done the same. He said Congress squandered roughly two years where they could have dealt with the issue, but choose instead to play politics and wait until the last minute to find a solution.

“They left themselves six weeks to deal with it and that’s impossible,” Rice said. “We need to be proactive and stop being reactive.”

Rice said he’s being proactive. Not even 24-hours on the job and he is already floating two potential pieces of legislation: imposing Congressional term limits and a balanced budget amendment. The congressman said he doesn’t know yet whether he will propose the items himself or join an already existing piece of legislation.

This article was authored by John Sweeney and originally appeared in The Morning News on January 3, 2013.