Five Reasons That Congressional Priorities Explain Pretty Much Everything
Here it is late January. Imagine yourself a newly elected Congressperson in your fourth week on the job. It is not like the fourth week of any job held by non-congress people because, in Congress land, a week is only Tuesday through Thursday. Your first January has been filled with one-off ceremonies and photo-ops related to your swearing in and the inauguration, further diminishing your on-the-job experience.
You are new to this and looking for the wise counsel of a mentor. “How should I be spending my day?” you ask. And who better to ask than the people who helped you get elected. Your friendly neighborhood Congressional Campaign Committee.
Congressional Campaign Committees come in two flavors: Democratic and Republican. This picture happens to be the suggestion of the Democrats, but be not in doubt for the Republicans have one pretty much like it. This is not a partisan rant about what some people do; it is a cry of despair about what Congress does.
Let’s walk through the day.
The four hours devoted to “call time” are about raising money. The person just elected, and now entitled to an honorific title, is telemarketing for the next campaign. Were it not political fund raising, there would be a “do not call” list, but political fund raising is exempt from the law that applies to most everyone else. Why four hours? Cold calling is an intense activity and that is about all of it a person can do in a day.
Constituent visits cover the next hour or two. Some are devoted to benign ceremonial activities like greeting middle schoolers on their spring civics trip. Others are payback time with the donors successfully browbeaten in the first four hours.
The two hours devoted to Committee/Floor are what the elected official is actually paid to do. Multiplied by the three days a week in Washington and it comes to a grueling six hours per week. At $174,000 per year, six hours a week times about 40 weeks a year that the Congress is in session comes to about $725 per hour to do what they were hired to do.
Strategic outreach, like all things strategic, is plowing the ground for more fund raising. Think of it as marketing not sales. It is important to build the pipeline for the next round of fund raising calls.
The ninth or tenth hour of the day is recharge time, which could be anything from a vigorous workout to a vigorous round of cocktails or even a romp in the hay.
In vain, I looked for the time devoted to reading — and better still understanding – thousand page bills containing laws that apply to us but not to them. Or even for time devoted to fixing what was in those bills after passing them.
As with any job, it is important to prioritize your time.