8 Reasons Congressional Service Sucks

Welcome to a life of mooching, meetings, and trying not to get caught making out with your aides.

Imagine, in a moment of suspended disbelief, that your job pays 174 grand a year. And comes with a $1.3 million expense account. And a staff of 18 Ivy League yes-men whose sole duty is to bray loud and wide about the miracle that is you — when they're not babysitting your kids or fetching your dry cleaning, that is.

You get free travel to anywhere on the globe. A private dining room and a private gym replete with swimming pool, sauna, and steam bath.

Best of all, you're only required to show up for the equivalent of four months per year.

Former congressman Tom Tancredo had this life for a decade. By the time it was over, he'd caught that affliction known to anyone who hates his job: a fear of Monday mornings. "As I drove to work, I'd get a knot in my stomach, and it would just start to grow," Tancredo says.

Here's why:

8. Think of your day as a Bataan Death March of meetings.

The meeting. It's the most nefarious act in the American workplace, an assault of trudging monologues and plans never to be fulfilled.

Yet this is your life as a legislator. Meeting. After meeting. After meeting.

Your mornings begin with committee hearings. But since most members serve on four to seven different committees, "you can't just go to one hearing and sit," says former representative Steve Bartlett (R-Texas).

After all, the line outside your office began forming at 8 a.m. There are staffers, constituents, and captains of industry all wanting . . . meetings. Never mind the 12,000 registered lobbyists, who may suddenly lack the stamina to write a check if they can't get a sit-down.

So you knock them out in breakneck succession, with barely time to lob pleasantries and get down to business. "Everything in a congressman's life is scheduled within 15-minute increments, and oftentimes you're double-booked," says Bartlett, who subsequently became mayor of Dallas before heading a Wall Street advocacy group.

Tancredo's day would usually begin at 6 a.m., lest his commute turn into a grinding two-hour pilgrimage courtesy of the D.C. rush hour. His meetings would run for the next 10 hours. If the Colorado Republican wanted to speak on the House floor, he would still be working at 11 p.m., when a slot finally opened on the schedule.

Yes, it could all be a heady experience. "Powerful people beg for your vote," says one Capitol Hill staffer. "Ego-wise, it's an orgy at the Playboy Mansion."

It can also be enriching. Tancredo warmly recalls the deluge of information available nowhere else. "Every day you learned more shit about more shit," he says. "It was like a college education every couple of weeks."

The downside is that all this activity is usually for naught.

After all, this is a job of rigorous self-interest. Passing meaningful legislation only jeopardizes your survival, since it places your vote on a tee, there to be hammered by character-assassinating ads in the next election. So rather than act today, it's always best to speak of intended heroics in distant battles to come.

That means the most common vote you'll take is to rename a post office somewhere, which amounts to 20 percent of all legislation passed. According to former senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyoming), it's now all about running out the clock. "It's simply how do you stall until you get through the next election so you don't lose seats."

7. You will attend many parties. They will blow.

Washington is a party town. Bartlett often went to four a night, 12 months a year.

Yet D.C.'s definition of "partying" hews closer to the 1870s sense of the word. You will not lose yourself on the dance floor. You will not wolf shots of pomegranate vodka and end up sharing a bong with a ventriloquist named Renaldo at 4 a.m.

What you will do is shmooze and be shmoozed at dinners, receptions, and fundraisers, where the most unrefined moment will involve a woman wearing pastel out of season.

"The typical reception was about a 15-minute in-and-out," Bartlett says. "Most bartenders would prepare 'the congressional drink' — which is usually orange juice — as soon as you come in."

Yes, there's a good chance that someone will buy you a steak the size of a sub-Saharan principality. But there's also a good chance that you'll be seated next to a lobbyist for the American Coalition for Clean Coal, who will treat you to a soliloquy on the respiratory benefits of airborne toxins.

"They're not a respite," says Tancredo, who's now running for governor of Colorado. "They're usually with contributors to the party, and you're supposed to shmooze. They're not always comfortable."

Worse, these events have a way of trampling lesser egos.

Washington is often referred to as "Hollywood for ugly people." But since there are 535 members of Congress, only the most prominent get the all-hands-on-deck obsequiousness reserved for Brangelina and Clooney. If you're a freshman from Minnesota or a back-bencher from Missouri, expect to play the role of Tori Spelling.

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19 comments
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Doug Cleland
Doug Cleland

I thought Phoenix Arizona was ran by the Teabilly party.

ricksteinheiser
ricksteinheiser

Great article. It's a wonder we've made it nearly 250 years as a country

RobertGraham29
RobertGraham29

I can think of many reasons why Obama must be impeached for breaking the law.

fsmith3
fsmith3

Tancredo was one of the most notorious nutcases in Congress.  He ran for president for a few weeks where he was most noted for saying he didn't believe in evolution.  He was more anti-Hispanic than Sheriff Joe.


DiConcini until very recently was a board member for the corrupt for-profit prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, resigning only when he began to get picketed.

Cozz
Cozz topcommenter

Public F-ing leaches is all they are.

Cris Cross
Cris Cross

Poor little f-ing Crooks. They should all be fired

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

It seems that much of the time wasted is on lobbyists.  Take the money out of politics and you immediately excise the lobbyists.  


Meetings are not evil and a waste in and of themselves.  People are the time wasters.  Short, efficient, concise and purposeful meetings require a no nonsense leader and a specified time limit.  


Washington can be fixed.  We need to stop electing lawyers and other bloviators and start electing business managers.  But we better do it soon.


Electing more inept and clueless obamas will lead us down the road to destruction.  I only hope the country and the world survives the next two years.      

xxxxx2
xxxxx2

More and more people are leaving PHX due the far right conservatives here in our state.  That is not good.

xxxxx2
xxxxx2

@RobertGraham29

The president has not broken the law.  But guess who has?   The Republican-led Congress by Weeper John Boehner.

xxxxx2
xxxxx2

@RobertGraham29

There is absolutely NO reason whatsoever talking about a Pres. Obama impeachment!

xxxxx2
xxxxx2

@fsmith3 Absolutely.  Nut case is a mild word for Mr. Tancredo.

Imagine this man plus all the other half baked Republican politicos like this being voted in office and running our country.  

It is due the Republican tactics these past 6 years that have brought our country down.

Electrica
Electrica

@fishingblues "People are the time wasters." WELL! Don't waste your time talking to people you space alien fuck!

Electrica
Electrica

@fishingblues Go blow yourself up in a fake war you bastard. Go suck Rush Limbaugh's big fat cigar. You deserve it.

fsmith3
fsmith3

Simple solutions for simple minds.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@ConcernedCitizenAZ


Just out of curiosity, do you ever post anything that is not bat-shit crazy?


Damn, no one I know liked the Iraq war.  Do you think you own that issue?


I've heard obama and the loony libs blame Bush for every failure, now you are saying it was Bush's fault that obama was elected?  


Jazus!  

 
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