Congressman Kingston makes some very good points… And to answer my own question, at least this Congressman gets it in Washington…
Where Congress works matters less than what it does
Where should members of Congress spend their time working? In Washington or in their districts?
That is the question. It isn’t, “Should members of Congress work five days a week?” We do. In fact, for most of us, it’s a 60-hour, six-day workweek. But in this day of de-centralized information, cell phones, Internet and Blackberry services, Congress, like all jobs, can and should be more mobile.
Serving in Congress is actually a two-part job. The first, and more visible of the two, is legislative and D.C.-based. It involves voting for legislation, debate, committee and caucus work, etc. – the stuff you see on C-SPAN. But the other major part of the job, which often goes unnoticed, is back home in the district – listening and learning.
For example, last year I hosted 25 town hall meetings regarding Medicare Part D. The year before that, I held 17 town hall meetings on Social Security. In addition, I made over 200 speeches and meetings with veteran groups, farmers, energy, tax, health care, education and environmental groups.
And I met with many individuals who had problems with the federal government – people who don’t have business cards and don’t know doctors and lawyers personally. These are the people who don’t have the lobbyists, the time, or the budgets that would allow them to come to Washington and meet with me.
Meeting with these groups in Savannah and the 25 counties in the 1st District gives me much-needed, unfiltered, outside-the-Beltway information, and it counterbalances the influence of Washington party politics, interest groups and PAC money. Spending more time in Washington means members of Congress are less in touch with the people they represent.
It gives us legislation born within the Beltway, passed within the Beltway, and supported by the Beltway brokers. That formula is bad for America.
In fact, Congress passed 1,100 bills last term. That’s 1,100 new laws, regulations and programs. As I travel around the country I find everywhere I go most people want fewer laws. That is everywhere but in Washington, D.C. New laws and regulations are the town’s business and culture. It’s a culture out of synch with America and the nation is better served having representatives who are in touch with their districts and not part of the D.C. culture.
Republicans, my party, lost the majority for a number of reasons – scandals, spending, “the bridge to nowhere,” Iraq and history – but the primary reason is that we didn’t deliver. We didn’t resolve issues from immigration reform, permanent tax relief and tax simplification, health care affordability, fuel independence, etc. When we were in Washington, we spent our time naming post offices and bridges.
We did not lose the majority because we were home listening to or speaking with our constituents. We lost it because we didn’t make good use of the time when we were in Washington.
U.S. House of Representatives, 1st Distrct