Feb. 8, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Leavin’ on a Jet Plane

West Coast Lawmakers Recount Their Travels and Travails

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) spends his long flights prepping notes and creating checklists for staff meetings.

In the early 1980s, during a routine flight from Washington, D.C., to California, Rep. Pete Stark met a young entrepreneur who was interested in donating computers to schools but was stymied by the way the tax code treated such donations.

That chance encounter between the crusty Democratic Congressman and the young computer whiz named Steve Jobs eventually led to the creation of a charitable deduction allowance for computer donations.

Most West Coast lawmakers don’t experience such life-altering events while heading home for the weekend.

So what are they doing up there?

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) — in typical Don Young fashion — takes solace in a good rest and a politically incorrect wish for his 10-hour flight.

“I always hope I get to sit next to a pretty blonde,” he says. “But it never happens.”

Rep. Mazie Hirono uses the 5,000 miles between D.C. and Hawaii to catch up on work, and she finds home cooking is a motivation.

“I love going home and being able to bring back my favorite Hawaiian dishes,” the Democratic lawmaker says. 

For dozens of Members in the Pacific time zone and beyond, finding a routine can help fill long hours and thousands of miles spent in the sky. A few sat down with Roll Call to talk about their regular westward journeys.


Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) 

For Mack, the flight to her home near Palm Springs is an opportunity to catch up on work or indulge in some light reading.

“Sometimes I like a People magazine I can thumb through. I’ll play solitaire on my iPad when I’m really tired,” she says.

While constituents onboard will regularly recognize Mack, she describes most interactions as “generally friendly.”

“They jump for joy and do backflips,” she jokes. “[But] if there is a hot issue going on at the time, it might get mentioned.”

As a weekly flier, Mack has had the pleasure of sitting next to some interesting passengers, chatting once with an astronaut.

“We talked about his job and space. I also sat next to a couple of reporters,” she recalls. “One was from Real Clear Politics, the other from the Huffington Post, and I follow them both on Twitter.”

During flights, Mack — once married to a former pop star — also likes to relax with some tunes. 

“I listen to Dr. Dre’s ‘I Need a Doctor,’ classic rock, classical. I listen to a lot of different things,” she says.


Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.)

Bass enjoys getting caught up on current events during her trek to California. 

“As a news junkie, I like keeping in touch with what is going on,” she says.

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