Heard on the Hill

Take Five: Matt Gaetz

Florida Republican says members of Congress ‘are hamsters on a hamster wheel’

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., says he first ran for Congress because he didn't want to vote for anyone else. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Freshman Rep. Matt Gaetz, 35, a Florida Republican, talks about what he would say to President Donald Trump in a one-on-one meeting, how baby boomers can hurt progress and what he teaches his staffers.

Q: What has surprised you so far about Congress?

A: The extent to which seniority dominates over which party is in power. I come from the Florida legislature where the lowest ranking majority member on a committee has more influence than someone who is in the minority. Here, it seems as though seniority matters a lot more than whether or not your party’s in power.

[The Least Interesting (Fresh) Man in the House]

Q: If you could have 15 minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you want to talk about?

A: Oh my. I’ve spent a good amount of time with the president down in Florida because he’s essentially an honorary Floridian and he had a number of business interests in Florida. He was interested in our economy and our government, so I’ve gotten a chance to spend some time with him.

I’d push him on cannabis reform. President Trump made a commitment to millennials that he supported medical marijuana and he’s appointed an attorney general who doesn’t. And so I’d try to obtain a commitment that he was going to fulfill the campaign promise to allow people to access medical marijuana.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., points to a photograph of his childhood home, which was featured in the film, 'The Truman Show.' (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Gaetz points to a photograph of his childhood home, which was featured in the film “The Truman Show.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Q: Your father and grandfather were in politics. When did you decide you wanted to be, too?

A: I decided I didn’t want to vote for anybody else that was running for state representative. I became a candidate when I was 26 years old. I just didn’t want to vote for anyone else that was running.

[Take Five: Salud Carbajal]

Q: You’re one of the youngest members on Capitol Hill. What unique perspective do you have as a result?

A: Positions regarding the debt and spending. I believe history will judge harshest the youngest people in Congress if our debt piles up … and leads to our ultimate demise. And so, I think that younger people who serve have a  unique obligation to look out for the future that we have in a world in which we allow this persistent generational thought to occur from these baby boomers.

[Take Five: Jacky Rosen]

Q: So far in Congress, what do you think has been the most challenging day for you?

A: The pace is very difficult for me — the glacial pace of reform. In so many ways, it feels as though members of Congress are hamsters on a hamster wheel, working very hard, scurrying about, but at the end of the day, too often in the same place they started. I always want to make sure that in our office, we know the different between motion and progress.

[Take Five: Anthony Brown]

Quick hits

Last book read: “Juiced” by Jose Canseco.

Last movie seen: “We’re the Millers.” My [childhood] house is in a movie. It was Jim Carey’s house in the movie “The Truman Show.”

Favorite song of all time: “The Joker,” Steve Miller Band.

Role models: My dad.

Closest to in Congress: Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Va.

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