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Believe it or not, the guy who painstakingly helps negotiate the House’s daily agenda is hardly the hobnobbing busybody one might expect.
“I wouldn’t consider myself an outgoing people-person,” Chris Vieson, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s new floor operations director, said in a recent interview. “I never planned on being here or doing this, but I guess once I got here I was hooked.”
Vieson started off his tenure as a floor staffer for Sen. Roy Blunt when the Missouri Republican was House minority whip.
How busy the House floor is, and by extension how busy Vieson is, depends on many factors, from the outside political climate to specific members’ wants and preferences. Vieson takes timing into account as well. On Tax Day this year, for example, the House considered tax accountability measures under suspension of the rules.
Coordinating with many committees’ timelines also plays a major role in setting the agenda, not to mention the work that goes into making sure a product can get 218 votes. “All the fun stuff that goes with scheduling legislation,” he said dryly.
During recess, the floor team spends the time hammering down calendar items for the next legislative stretch, but during that time they’ve also got greater flexibility in their hours — and wardrobe. Vieson came to the interview for this piece, scheduled on a recess day, in jeans, sneakers and a plaid shirt of vivid red, orange and yellow.
He also uses the off days to see sunlight and spend time with his son, who is nearly 3 years old, he said.
“He’s big into rockets right now,” Vieson said. “So that takes up most of my time outside of work.”
Besides the rockets, the floor director gets up at 6 every morning to have breakfast with his son, he said. He joked that he hopes the boy will soon show a lucrative athleticism and said that in his own youth, he wanted to be a professional soccer or football player.
Raised in Bloomfield Hills, a northern suburb of Detroit, Vieson grew into his family’s loyalty to the Michigan State University Spartans.
“Love Ann Arbor,” he said. “Hate Michigan, though.” That’s the University of Michigan, whose rivalry with State runs deep.
After high school, he ended up at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he faced a heavy case of culture shock, he said, without mentioning the Green Wave’s rather humble sporting record.
Vieson majored in English literature and focused on Shakespeare. When he wasn’t reading “Hamlet,” his favorite play, New Orleans had ample entertainment to offer. “It was almost like getting two educations,” he said.
“There’s always something going on,” Vieson said of the Crescent City. “Just like here.”
In Washington, he is staying busy with a job that he says has no normal day to day. A placid, straightforward speaker, Vieson said he never wants to be a lawmaker and at one point poked fun at the evasive language typical of those in that line of work.
“You’re not going to make everyone happy,” he said. “But to the best of your ability you kind of keep the trains going — with everyone on board.”
“If we have to speak in metaphors,” he added.
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