Life in Congress
Rep. Mark Amodei was elected to the U.S. House in a 2011 special election after he served 14 years in the Nevada Legislature. The italics represent emphasis in Amodei's voice.
What’s been your biggest surprise back there?
The pace of inactivity. … Makes the Nevada Legislature look like the highest production outfit in the nation.
What’s been your toughest problem?
You know what? … I mean, I’ve been there for 42 months, 14 days, but who’s counting? The culture, as I’ve come to know it, is one that many times places political sport over issue work product. You know, people disagree on issues, and that’s nothing new, but you look at the issues, whether it’s health care, whether it’s immigration—I mean, now even the Congress is being expected to get into managing foreign policy. I guess one of the things from serving over here [at the state legislature] for so long, you do your homework, you try to find out what the facts are, you talk to people, and then you say, “OK, here’s what I think ought to be done. Let’s go see if we can’t get that done.” And a lot of what my experience [in Congress] has been is that political positioning or perceived political advantage are some of the first things that are evaluated instead of the facts and issues related to solving a problem.
Do you see any light at the end of the tunnel on remedying this?
You know, over half the people that are serving in the House right now have been elected since 2010. So that’s the last three classes on both sides of the aisle. And I’m not trying to piss on the folks that have been there the longer. I don’t know that this is attributable to evil or whatever, but I do think that there is a culture in place that places political considerations above working the issues. And if I work an issue that the people back here in CD2 think, “You’re on the wrong side of it,” and they fire me, that's the process. Instead of, “I haven't done anything, so you can't really criticize me for something.” It's like it's impossible to defend nothing. And so, when you say, “Is there light at the end of the tunnel?” I think that the folks that have been elected the last three cycles, if they stick around, are people whose—by and large—hearts and minds are in the right place and want to be able to come back to their districts and towns like Carson and Sparks and stuff and be able to say, “Here's what we did” and have you go, “I think that's dumb” or “That's' good stuff” or whatever—as opposed to the passage of time without the production of something to just get you by in terms of where you voted on issues.