He spends his free time having his staff quiz him with flashcards that show other members of Congress, their home states and their committees — but don’t call him “congressman,” says the freshman Democrat from Boulder.
“Seriously, for my sanity, just call me Jared,” writes Rep. Jared Polis in his debut blog entry on CNN’s “Freshman Year” feature, which will follow Polis and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, as they get their bearings in Congress.
Polis, one of four newcomers — all Democrats — to Congress from Colorado, compares his first weeks in Washington, D.C., to a return to college, with everything from a lottery for dorm assignments to rushing for committee assignments.
We wander around aimlessly, clutching maps, trying to find our way around “campus.” There are even intramural sports; I played baseball in high school and hope to join the congressional team.
And just like college, newbies are often lumped together and collectively, even mockingly, referred to as “The Freshmen.” Some of the upper classman are a bit snooty and don’t talk to us lowly fish, but others are friendly and eager to help.
Polis probably doesn’t get too much of snooty treatment, because he landed a plum spot on the powerful 13-member House Rules Committee. That’s why his staff is using flashcards to help acquaint him with the other 434 members — he’ll have to know whether it’s a powerful committee chairman bending his ear in the hallway.
The Rules Committee passes rules on everything: whether amendments are allowed, how long the debate shall last and who gets to offer amendments.
Imagine that in college, in addition to a professor who writes the test, there was also a rules committee that determined things such as whether the test is open or closed book, how long people have to take the test, whether it’s graded on a curve or not.
This gives the committee an incredible amount of influence “inside the Beltway,” as the pundits say, and I’m looking forward to learning to use my position on Rules as well as the Education Committee to do good things for my constituents.
Here’s CNN’s video introducing the “Freshman Year” coverage, featuring Polis and Chaffetz. (It opens with a commercial.)
And here’s how Polis sums up his first three weeks:
• Been kissed by Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen — on stage, no less at the Human Rights Campaign Ball).
• Had my congressional ID pin accidentally stolen by fellow freshman Rep. Tom Periello of Virginia.
• Hosted eight houseguests in our humble, one-bathroom abode on Capitol Hill for the inauguration.
• Participated in the greatest single outpouring of national pride and emotion our nation has ever seen.
• And gotten lost (repeatedly) in the labyrinthine passageways beneath the Capitol and House office buildings.