Freshman Rep. Anthony G. Brown, 55, a Maryland Democrat, talks about the lack of bipartisanship on the big issues of the day, lessons learned from his unsuccessful run for governor, and the luxury of waking up in his district.
Q: What has surprised you about Congress that you didn’t expect?
A: Two things. One is that there’s sort of this institutional discouragement of bipartisanship. Certainly in the freshman class, we all came in, and Democrats and Republicans, we pledged to work on a bipartisan basis and some of us have gone with members across the aisle on some bills. I certainly did. In the grand scheme of things, they’re smaller issues and matters but on the big issues of the day, the issues that … come up day in and day out in town hall meetings and the like, there’s no bipartisanship at all and there seems to be a real institutional reluctance.
I also am amazed at the activity, there’s a lot going on. There’s a lot going on in Congress, a lot of important issues, a lot of conversation. I wish more got done. The volume of the noise greatly exceeds the underlying activity of what gets done.
Q: What unique perspective do you have as someone whose district borders D.C.?
A: It’s a two-edged sword. Every Friday or Thursday, when my colleagues are scrambling and rushing off to Dulles or National to begin their anywhere from two-hour to 10-hour trip home, I’ve got the luxury of a 20-minute drive. So the good part is that I’m always in touch with my district, I mean, physically. I wake up every morning in my district.
The challenge with that is that there are times when I want to focus on the work that’s happening on the Hill, the policy discussions, the evening working dinner over discussing defense policy, but I’m conflicted because I have an important community event that I need to go to. You can’t tell a constituent in the 4th Congressional District that, “Well, I’m in Washington today so I can’t make it.”
Q: What was your decision-making process like in your runs for governor and for Congress?
A: Running for governor was a great experience. It gave me an opportunity to learn a lot about Maryland and, certainly, my eight years as lieutenant governor took me to parts of Maryland I never would have visited had I been delegate in the General Assembly or gone straight from the House of Delegates to Congress. The experience as lieutenant governor and the campaign for governor prepared me, I believe, to be a better member of Congress.
Q: What’s something about Maryland that you learned running for governor?
A: Maryland is like America in miniature. I don’t think there’s anything you can’t find in Maryland that exists around in the country. From our mountains, we can go skiing, to our ocean resorts. We’ve got access to two cosmopolitan centers — Baltimore and Washington, D.C. If you can’t find it in Maryland, it probably doesn’t exist. I was raised in New York and something that people used to say, “If you can’t find it in New York, it doesn’t exist.” Well, I say the same thing about Maryland.
Q: When you find downtime, what are you hobbies?
A: My son and I, we frequent a trap and skeet center in Prince George’s County. We go over there with our 12-gauge shotguns and do sporting clays. That’s a good father-son activity. I’m trying to … bring the Congressional Black Caucus out there for an outing.
Last book read: “The Big Stick” by Eliot A. Cohen
Last movie seen: “Land of Mine”
Favorite song of all time: Earth, Wind & Fire is my favorite group of all time. It’s hard to find a favorite among them, but “September.”
Role models: Muhammad Ali.
Closest to in Congress: The guy I spend the most of my time on the floor with is [Pennsylvania Rep.] Dwight Evans. [Delaware Rep.] Lisa Blunt Rochester and I, we call each other brother and sister. My go-to guy, my mentor, perhaps, is [Maryland Rep.] Elijah E. Cummings.