435 Separate Cuts; or, How I Spent My Summer Vacation

by Andrew Rudalevige on July 30, 2013 · 5 comments

in Campaigns and elections,General Politics,Legislative Politics

house recess 2013 coverThe House of Representatives’ Republican Conference has released instructions to its members on how to spend their summer vacations. It doesn’t involve much frivolity, unless one’s idea of holiday heaven involves writing (or at least cutting-and-pasting) op-eds, pumping gas, holding meetings with angry people and, most broadly, hating on Washington.

Kicking off the 31 colorful pages of  “Fighting Washington for All Americans”, GOP Conference Chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (of Washington, as it happens) writes that “We should be proud of the work we’ve accomplished together so far in the 113th Congress…. The work we have accomplished in Congress is invaluable to those back in our districts.”  (Alas, only 12% of the public seems to realize this.)

The bulk of Fighting Washington consists of a long and detailed to-do list for the summer “district work period.” It gives members a sample op-ed to place in local papers, provides details on how to hold town hall meetings (hint: you should “reserve a space that is large enough to accommodate the expected number of attendees…” and “take many photographs and videos”), and suggests a list of issues members might hammer home at home: the economy, the excesses of Obamacare, the IRS.  (All the while remembering that “Fighting Washington isn’t about creating more partisan gridlock, heated rhetoric, or Republicans versus Democrats.”  Also that: “While touring, help constituents pump gas and bag their groceries where possible.”)

Now, here’s the thing. None of this is necessarily bad advice. But the people receiving it are incumbents and their staffs. Are they in fact people who need to be told to reserve a hall when holding a meeting? Congress scholars, help out here – is this level of instructional specificity new to the current crop of proud amateurs in the GOP caucus, or did the 1970s waves of newcomers (mostly Democratic then) receive similar orientation?

In the end the document serves as true homage to Richard Fenno and his 1978 book Home Style, in which he famously concluded that “members run for Congress, by running against Congress…”  But I wonder if we – and the House leadership – might do well to remember where he takes the thought: “Yet the institution bleeds from 435 separate cuts…”

 

PS - According to Roll Call, Democrats too plan to spend the summer bashing Washington. So it is indeed 435 cuts, not 234…

 

 

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