Steve Rose

Give Congress some credit for tough workdays

Updated: 2014-01-19T00:18:57Z

By STEVE ROSE

Special to The Star

Congress is literally less popular than cockroaches and traffic jams. That is what Public Policy Polling discovered last year in a national poll. Numerous other polls confirm that Congress has around a 9 percent approval rating.

This is a bum rap.

I’m thankful for Congress.

And I don’t mean just the institution of Congress, but the actual living, breathing, despised souls who currently run it.

These public servants — regardless of your political views — deserve recognition that they have one of the most grueling and thankless jobs in America.

You say they are overpaid at $174,000 a year? I say it’s a bargain.

Consider what they put up with. And, yes, I know it is their choice. But still, give them some credit for what they do.

They take heat for nearly every vote. No matter what the issue, they find themselves on the wrong side of disagreeable and quite vocal dissidents. They must try to finesse these cantankerous constituents but are unlikely to calm them down.

They must meet with lobbyists on a regular basis. The American public is very impatient with this fact but lobbyists are not evil. They are often pushing legitimate points of view for certain interests. They cannot be ignored because they can swing a lot of votes and can often raise lots of money — either to support or oppose their congressman.

Part of the responsibility is to meet with constituents, either in groups or sometimes individually. Those who travel to Washington expect personal attention from their representative. Despite busy schedules, they must slot in these important visits.

And then they must raise money. Unfortunately, this may be the most time-consuming part. Members of Congress are on the phone constantly, whether in Washington or at home, or in private meetings with big givers.

The costs of campaigns have risen astronomically, and for most elected leaders, raising money is probably their least favorite part of the job.

One reason for building a huge war chest, besides running a campaign, is to scare off potential political opponents who are thinking of running against them.

Yet, despite the fact that 91 percent of incumbents were re-elected in the last election, they constantly are looking over their shoulder because they know that, even though the odds are low, they can lose in an upset election.

They commute. A lot. These representatives of the people fly home every weekend to mingle and be visible to their constituents.

At home, they attend events, give speeches and hold town hall meetings. It is a whirlwind of activity from the time they hit the ground. (Small-town members of Congress have to drive hours from the nearest airport just to get home.)

They are always “on.” The public expects them to display an appropriate demeanor as their representative.

They sacrifice time with their families in a huge way. The families deserve praise for what they have given up.

It is not a 40-hour-a-week job. It is a constant job, day and night. If you broke down the salary into the number of hours spent, you would find that the cost-per-hour is not all that high.

Sure, there are bums and slimy individuals who abuse their power and who are not there as public servants, but for personal gain. They are the cockroaches of Congress. But this characterization applies to only a few.

The overwhelming majority in Congress believe in what they are doing, and care about the country and the states and communities they represent.

And, yes, many do it because they also love the job and the prestige. But there is nothing wrong with that.

It is time to recognize that these are worthy human beings doing an incredibly important job for this country.

Even if your member of Congress has never cast a vote that agrees with your own philosophy, he or she deserves your respect, if not your thanks.

To reach Steve Rose, a longtime Johnson County columnist, send email to srose@kc.rr.com.

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