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A Freshman's Year In A Dysfunctional Congress


We're going to go to a Republican member of the House, Congressman Bill Huizenga of Michigan. He represents the 2nd district in western Michigan. We check in with him from time to time throughout his first year in Congress. Congressman, welcome back.

REPRESENTATIVE BILL HUIZENGA: Hey. Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: Now, let me ask about - are these stop-gap measures just the new way of doing business in Congress, and does that just kick the can down the road a couple of months?

HUIZENGA: Well, let me answer that last part first. Yes, it is a way to keep kicking the can down the road. But is this new? No. You know, I had worked for my predecessor, Peter Hoekstra, in the late '90s until 2003. And we've seen omnibus bills before and those kinds of things, but we've got to get our act together as Congress and get back to regular order and get things passed.

SIMON: As you surely know, Congress is not polling well. Congressional Record, I guess, says through November 30, the House of Representatives...


SIMON: ...passed...is that a dog?

HUIZENGA: Yes. That's Roxy in the background. The kids just got up and she's running around.

SIMON: Glad Roxy could join us. If she wants to weigh in, let us know. The House passed 326 bills this session, as compared to 970 in 2009; over a thousand in 2007. That's the fewest in at least 10 non-election years. What do you say to folks back home who might say you guys are lucky to have jobs in this economy. Why don't work harder?

HUIZENGA: Well, certainly there's two sides. One, is the legislative side out in Washington; the other is what we do back in the districts, in our district to work offices and those kinds of things. That's what I did. I was a district director. But I think also, Scott, you're right to point that out. I'm not a guy who says we need to have volume of bills. I'd rather have quality over quantity. But I think if you compare that to what the Senate has done, it has been an absolute do-nothing Senate, and the capacity that they have seems to be nil when it comes to dealing with these tough issues. The House of Representatives passed a budget. We've passed a number of other things, including Keystone and other things that we think will help create a better work environment.

SIMON: I mean, how do you assess your experience? Have you been changed by it over your first year? Are you more willing to conciliate than you used to be?

HUIZENGA: Well, you know, having had some experience in this has been helpful. I haven't had any huge knock-me-down surprises. But I can tell you probably the biggest lesson has been seeing the depth of frustration and anger that are out there, and I knew that coming off the campaign trail in 2010. But, you know, people are very, very frustrated. I'm glad I'm there. You know, I've got a small business background. I still own a small sand and gravel company. But having this public policy background as well has, I think, made me suited for this. But it's frustrating for me even being in there.

SIMON: And what do you find frustrating?

HUIZENGA: Well, just that there isn't this regular order or this proper way of doing business. I think we have done that in the House of Representatives. We've restored a lot of that. But you see the inaction on the Senate side, and whether it's the fact that they are approaching 1,000 days without a budget, the fact that if you go to my website, Huizenga.house.gov, we've got a jobs tracker that showed almost 30 bills that we've passed in the House that we believe will create jobs in America are just sitting in the Senate. And that, to me, is really frustrating. You look at the number of bills that the Senate has actually passed or dealt with and it's nearly nil.

SIMON: Millions of people have been watching the Republican presidential candidates debate. Have you made an endorsement?

HUIZENGA: I have not yet.

SIMON: What do you think so far?

HUIZENGA: Well, first, we got to stop the debates. You know, I think we're getting to the point where it's almost local television stations, you know, sponsoring these things. We're starting to get to a point where I think it might be counterproductive. But, you know, I think you continued to see Mitt Romney have probably the most steady, consistent performance throughout all these things. You certainly have a significant group that's looking for someone else. And whether it's Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry or Herman Cain and now Newt Gingrich, they're kind of all over the place. But, you know, we're going to get through this. I think whoever emerges will be a stronger candidate for that. But my first and foremost priority is to see someone who's going to be able to offer an alternative to Barack Obama as our president.

SIMON: Congressman Bill Huizenga of Michigan. Thank you so much for joining us again.

HUIZENGA: Hey, great being with you, Scott. Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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