For the average voter, members of Congress have become elusive, almost mythical creatures, much discussed but never seen.
Constituents are rightfully annoyed. They’re clamoring for town halls or listening sessions so they can voice their views to elected officials during this two-week congressional recess. But many representatives and senators have grown averse to that sort of one-on-one interaction with their constituents. Few are holding open forums.
So industrious voters are creating their own opportunities to be heard.
Janis Deveney surprised herself in early March. The Independence woman has long been politically engaged. She votes every election. She’d never considered herself a political activist, though. But as with many voters, the election of Donald Trump has intensified her interest in politics and the machinations of Congress.
Never miss a local story.
So when someone posted on social media that Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri was boarding a Kansas City-bound flight in Washington, D.C., she acted.
Deveney changed her shirt, threw on some flip-flops and hopped in the car. She arrived at the airport with barely five minutes to spare. She guessed the route that the senator was likely to take to leave the terminal and carefully positioned herself.
Soon, Blunt appeared. Deveney introduced herself and shook his hand.
The senator took her aside and the two talked for five or 10 minutes, mostly about the Affordable Care Act since that was the topic on Deveney’s mind. She told Blunt about her two bouts with cancer and the tremendous cost of the radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Her husband’s insurance was stellar, so they were fine. But people without good insurance would be bankrupted by such a health scare, and she wanted Blunt to understand.
Later, she filmed herself recounting the meeting, and the video circulated on social media. But other voters shouldn’t be forced to live vicariously through lucky constituents who managed to track down a member of Congress near the baggage claim.
“I thought he was very respectful, especially being caught off guard like that,” Deveney said of her airport interaction with Blunt. She knew that he probably disagreed with some of her views, but because she was there in person, she knew that she’d been heard.
Really, all voters want is a chance to share their views. The methods that Congress seems to favor — Facebook sessions, telephone call-ins, or forums where questions are carefully screened — do not allow for such give and take.
Members of Congress would be amazed at the props they might receive for simply showing up to a town hall or two. Sure, a few voters might be less than pleasant, but that’s a small price to pay.
And Sen. Claire McCaskill announced eight upcoming town halls, “where any Missourian can show up and chew on me about what they think I’m doing right or wrong.” But several other members of the Kansas and Missouri delegations apparently can’t find the time to meet with the voters who elected them.
Congress, you can run, and you can hide, but eventually you’ll be tracked down by diligent constituents. Best to schedule some time for them.
Contact your member of Congress:
Sen. Roy Blunt: 260 Russell S.O.B. Washington, D.C. 20150; 202-224-5721; KC: 816-471-7141
Sen. Claire McCaskill: 503 Hart S.O.B., Washington, D.C. 20150; 202-224-6154; KC: 816-421-1639
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver: 2335 Rayburn H.O.B., Washington, D.C. 20515; 202-225-4535; KC: 816-842-4545
Rep. Sam Graves: 1135 Longworth H.O.B., Washington, D.C. 20515; 202-225-7041; KC: 816-792-3976
Rep. Vicky Hartzler: 2235 Rayburn H.O.B., Washington, D.C. 20515; 202-225-2876; local: 816-884-3411
Sen. Pat Roberts: 109 Hart S.O.B., Washington, D.C. 20510; 202-224-4774; KC: 913-451-9343
Sen. Jerry Moran: 521 Dirksen S.O.B., Washington, D.C. 20510; 202-224-6521; KC: 913-393-0711
Rep. Kevin Yoder: 2433 Rayburn H.O.B., Washington, D.C. 20515; 202-225-2865; KC: 913-621-0832
Rep. Lynn Jenkins: 1526 Longworth H.O.B., Washington, D.C. 20515; 202-225-6601; local: 785-234-5966