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Macks, House Spouses, Balance Work and Play

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Rep. Connie Mack IV presented his wife, Rep. Mary Bono Mack, with a gavel to congratulate her on her new role as a subcommittee chairwoman.

Whereas most lawmakers use the weekends to return home, catch up with their spouses and bond with their children, Bono Mack and Mack see each other more frequently during the business week.

At the beginning of long weekends, they kiss goodbye at the airport and go their separate ways. Mack heads south to check on his district while Bono Mack flies west. (The separation could get worse if Mack decides to run in a competitive primary for the Senate seat in Florida).

Getaway weekends with the entire blended family are few and far between.

“With two offices, two campaigns, two districts, kids and a dog, it’s hard to find a time when we can just go somewhere,” Mack said.

To make up for lost time, the Macks lunch together when possible, drop by each other’s offices when they get a free minute and walk to the Capitol together for votes. They chatter about how they voted on various bills and proposals they intend to make.

Both Republicans, Bono Mack and Mack find themselves in agreement on most things political — but there are shades of gray.

Last week, for instance, Mack voted against reauthorizing provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act when Bono Mack voted yea. She also voted to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell” last Congress; he voted nay.

“In years past, we’d discuss these issues a little more, but nowadays I think we just know where we stand.” Bono Mack said. “It’s rare that we try to convince the other to change.”

Mack has even voted against at least one of Bono Mack’s bills. She had co-sponsored the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in 2009.

“I got a lot of grief, not really from Mary, but from our colleagues,” Mack said. “They asked ‘How can you vote against your wife’s bill?’”

But even when they disagree on politics, “we always agree that I’m right,” Bono Mack added — and that makes everything peachy.

Mack nodded: “The secret to a happy marriage is [knowing] you can either be happy or you can be right. I tell everyone I’m a happy man.”

Spouses With Benefits
Despite their busy schedules and the constant drone of politics, the Macks agree that being married to another lawmaker has its benefits.

“We both know what it takes to be a Member of Congress, and everyday things happen that not every spouse would understand,” Mack said. “Being married to a Member ... we’re understanding of those challenges.”

They both can relate to “the craziness, the schedules, the stress levels, the preoccupation — all of those things,” Bono Mack added.

They also serve as advisers, brainstorming negotiating strategies, tweaking the wording in each other’s speeches and giving feedback on bill proposals.

Bono Mack is senior in Congress by a solid six years and that brings Mack some kidding. “It’s remarkable that he still cannot find his way from the Capitol building to the Rayburn Office without me,” she said.

Bono Mack said the key to their relationship is “finding joy and excitement in everything” they do together and recognizing the special moments, “whether we’re at the White House for a black-tie event or doing our jobs or filling the coffee pot in the morning.”

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