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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.