Saturday, November 22, 2008

Meet Congressmember X

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18 of the Blue America-endorsed candidates won congressional seats this year. One of the new members got home from a week in DC last night and called me. I'm not going to identify who the member is or even if it's a man or a woman, although for the sake of simplicity I'll refer to the member-- now and forever-- as "he." He was exhausted and talked with me for a couple hours about the first week-- fascinating stuff and I'm hoping to persuade him to create a bogus FDL account and come on one day as Congressmember X and share his first impressions.

Actually he's not a member yet-- won't be 'til January. But he had to go in for orientation and to get an office and talk about a committeee assignment and vote in the hotly contested leadership race between Dingell and Waxman. Not all the Blue America candidates voted for Waxman. Our two Michigan members, Mark Schauer and Gary Peters, were backers of Dingell. In fact Congressmember X said they were very persuasive advocates for Dingell. Further, all the very persuasive advocates were for Dingell. "He ran a far better campaign in every respect. His spokesmen gave much better speeches. John Lewis' speech on behalf of Dingell got a standing ovation." The NY Times reports that Waxman's campaign was "better organized." I suspect they got it wrong.
Waxman and many others think that Mr. Dingell’s single-minded defense of the automobile industry’s interests set back safety, mileage and emissions standards by years and helped lead the companies to their present precarious position.

Still, Mr. Dingell retained the loyalty of moderate New Democrats, conservative Blue Dogs, much of the Black Caucus and representatives of the many districts with automobile or automotive supplier plants. And many members of all stripes were reluctant to upend the seniority system that they benefit from, or hope to. Mr. Dingell, 82, has represented a suburban Detroit district since 1955 and will become the longest-serving member in House history in February. He has been the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee for 28 years.

And in the end the only argument was that you don't kill off someone who has been serving so long. It was all about seniority and loyalty and some lame excuses about the little matter of the Big 3 going bankrupt and about CAFE standards. When I told Congressmember X that he may have to go back and vote on Waxman's successor at the Oversight Committee, it was news to him.

He also told me there was no pressure whatsoever from the Leadership to do anything. He wondered if it was going to be too lax as far as direction. I expect we'll be hearing him changing that view in a short time-- although without a flaming asshole like Emanuel in the leadership there isn't an obviously personality around to wield a rubber hose on reluctant members.

So, I already pretty much told you that Congressman X is not Schauer or Peters. I'll also pretty much tell you that it's also not Larry Kissell. Larry didn't call me but he revealed his feelings about week one to Lisa Zagaroli, a McClatchy correspondent.
Larry Kissell pulled into town after dark to a "stirring sight," the grand U.S. Capitol awash with light, and the magnitude of the job before him settled in.

"It was just a great sense of humbleness and recognizing the task that I'd been entrusted with-- and a great deal of enthusiasm with the opportunity to be part of this change," said Kissell, the high school civics teacher who beat five-term incumbent Robin Hayes to represent North Carolina's 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House.

...Kissell got his first taste of being lobbied, as two long-serving lawmakers battled over the chairmanship of the influential Energy and Commerce Committee.

"There are legitimate arguments both ways. I've done my homework," said Kissell, who wouldn't say how he would vote.

Between meetings this past week, Kissell was soaking in what he could, and feeling part of history.

"As a civics teacher, you cannot escape that feeling of responsibility, the significance of what we are entrusted to do, and the history of those who came before us," he said. "There have been less than 12,000 people who have ever served in Congress."

One of the most significant meetings for him came Monday when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., brought freshmen, both Democrats and Republicans, together on the House floor in a gesture of bipartisanship.

"There's a great sense of we need to work together, and take on the nation's problems together," he said.

Kissell said he's not worried about becoming ungrounded on Capitol Hill.

"I always say I've got a 93-year-old mom at home who told me if I lost my way she'd come help me straighten it out as she has done all my life," he jokes. "I have confidence in the people around me that together we can stay directed. I remember why I took this giant step and as a school teacher saying I was going to run for Congress.…I know where I want to go. I'm not worried… I’m too far along in who I am."

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5 Comments:

At 7:19 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Wow, Howie, an FDL account for CongressCritter X is a fabulous idea! Can you imagine how much Chris Van Hollen would hate it!? Not to mention Rahmbo.

They'd start leaking fake stuff just to see if it showed up at FDL.

By the way, is it Eric Massa? I don't think anybody would try to boss Eric Massa around.

 
At 8:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, based on the fact you've pretty much established it's a freshmen and a House member and not Kissell or either of the Michigan Reps. it has to be one of these six.

Alan Grayson
Martin Heinrich
Jim Himes
Dan Maffei
Tom Perriello
Eric Massa
Jared Polis

It doesn't sound like something Polis or Himes would do although I could be wrong. I think Heinrich is eliminated beacuse his strong stance on renewable energy would make it hard for him to go with Dingell. I don't think it's Maffei or Perriello either. So I'd guess Massa or Grayson and I think it's most likely to be Massa.

Fun guessing at least.

 
At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's nice to see that someone familiar with "Civics" has been elected to the House. Let's hope they don't kick it (the knowledge) out of him.

 
At 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somehow, I don't think that voting for Waxman's successor would have come as a surprise for Eric Massa.

 
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