Freshman Rep. Morgan Griffith says he understands that rank-and-file Members have to be left out of high-level negotiations because of his experience as former Majority Leader in the Virginia House of Delegates.
"You can't have all 435 of us in there," he said. "I've had to broker a lot of deals and then sell them to my caucus, so I understand that."
Griffith said he's planning to use the downtime this week to catch up on reading and other office tasks that often fall through the cracks.
The ongoing negotiations on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are fluid and seem to change by the minute. Only a handful of aides and Members are privy to their fluctuations. Is the "grand bargain" definitely dead? What about the "gang of six" talks? And what's this "holy grail" the White House is asking for?
Few seem to know.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) agrees that the mood among House Members is "dismal" and that he and many of his colleagues would rather be back at home. "We all have a role to play here, though," he said, although he concedes that the role most Members are playing is a supporting one.
Republican leaders have done a good job of at least listening to their Members so that they feel they are a part of the deal-making, he said.
It's not that there won't be any official business in the Capitol this week: Leaders have scheduled votes on legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration and legislative branch appropriations. And House leaders also agreed to give conservatives a vote on the Cut, Cap and Balance bill that they demanded in return for considering an increase to the federal debt limit.
Rep. Jared Polis said his constituents would probably rather have him in Washington while such momentous tasks are at hand than see him back home. "I think they want me here," the Colorado Democrat said.
But most Members are finding that it's easy to be out of the loop when the loop is really, really tiny.
During a series of votes Friday, Members circulated around the chamber floor, comparing notes on the injuries they sustained during the previous night's Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. A few children of Members darted amid the crowd.
Outside the chamber doors, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) strode down the marble hallway on the way to visit with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Surrounded by a small knot of aides and trailed by a camera crew, he crossed through Statuary Hall and turned into the deep red hallway that leads to the Speaker's office.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.