Heard on the Hill

Take Five: Tom Garrett

Virginia Republican on missing a vote because of the wrong glasses

Rep. Tom Garrett, R-Va., says all bills should get a hearing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Virginia Republican Rep. Tom Garrett, 46, boasts about his peanut sauce, his college ties and a budding hip-hop battle with Sen. Marco Rubio. 

Q: What has surprised you so far about being in Congress?

A: I come from a state legislative background and I’ll tell you that, there, if you filed a bill, you got a hearing. The other thing is the scale. Obviously, 535 members plus six nonvoting members is a whole lot different than 140 total members in a bicameral house. So that’s tough. 

The fact that things get cubbyholed, and the gatekeeper process that keeps bills from getting hearings. I don’t mind if I have to submit a bill and it’s not successful. I sure as hell would like a hearing. 

[Editor’s note: Before coming to Congress, Garrett served five years in the Virginia state Senate.]

[Take Five: Jamie Raskin]

Q: I hear you challenged Sen. Marco Rubio to a hip-hop battle.

A: I read somewhere that he is fan of ’80s and ’90s hip-hop and I don’t want to diminish the great state of Florida. But I think I’m game if he wants to do it, a complete-this-lyric contest. 

Q: Tell me about your love of the University of Richmond Spiders. 

A: I did [go to school there]. My sister did, my dad did, my uncle did. When it came time to apply, I applied to William & Mary, UVA, University of Richmond, Randolph-Macon. I got into all four.  The real truth of the matter is I intended to go to Virginia, but it occurred to me that Virginia was 22 minutes from my house and Richmond was an hour and 10 minutes from my house. In a pre-cellphone era, I figured mom wouldn’t show up unannounced if it was a two-hour, 20-minute round trip, but she might if it was 44. 

To me, in the sort of interpersonal commodity realm, very few things surpass loyalty, so I think my affinity for the school and the academic programs and the sports teams and all that sort of flows from that. Those are my people. 

[Take Five: Darren Soto]

Q: How many pairs of reading glasses do you own?

A: Oh, wow. Seventy. I’ve got family in Alabama, there’s a place in Alabama … called Little Lots. Unlike Big Lots. And you can get readers for $2 a pair there. I’ll go in and buy 15 pairs of reading glasses at a time. 

We had a vote that didn’t register. There’s film of me on the floor putting my card in, pressing the button. It didn’t register. I called the leadership team and kind of threw a mini-fit. … They reviewed it and said, “Well, you were in there and put the card in but it didn’t register.” I didn’t have my distance reading glasses with me at the time so I couldn’t look up at the board. 

[Take Five: Cindy Hyde-Smith]

Q: I hear you’re a foodie. Do you cook?

A: I’m a big fan of all food. I love to cook. I’m very good at cooking anything that I enjoy eating, which means don’t ask me to do your brussel sprouts. 

Indian and Thai, I generally ask for as hot as they’ll make it. Sometimes I get the double take and I’m like, “No, really.” I make the best peanut sauce I’ve ever had. 

Quick hits

Last book read: I reread “The Art of War.”

Pet peeve: The thing that I probably lament the most is the tone in the political discourse these days. 

Cats or dogs: I’m a dog person. 

If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead: The easy one is Jesus. I think for my district, Barbara Johns would be amazing. She led a walkout of students from the Moton High School, which was the African-American school in Farmville, Virginia. 

Closest friend across the aisle: Reps. William Lacy Clay and Raúl Grijalva.

Watch: Mispronounced Names, Mother’s Day and a Kid in Committee — Congressional Hits and Misses

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.