With late-night negotiations and long hours, members have little time to stop and smell the lawmaking.
Rep. Chuck Fleischmann has found that walking to and from work — from his Capitol Hill home to the Rayburn House Office Building — is a way to stay focused and energized.
“Whether it’s cold or hot, wet or dry, I walk to work. It’s a great way to start the day for me. It’s almost like a very peaceful routine,” the Tennessee Republican said.
HOH recently joined him for the trip, which takes about 15 minutes.
Watch: Fleischmann Talks Budget on His Way to Work
Fleischmann calls himself “boring.” But he knows how to chill during a hectic Congress.
“Every once in a while, I’ll come home to my apartment in the midst of a busy day and put on a pot of coffee and watch an old episode of ‘Gunsmoke’ or some type of retro TV from when I was a kid. It relaxes me, and I have a cookie or two and just relish the day,” the congressman said.
While leadership began the year by keeping House Republicans in the Capitol late over funding negotiations, Fleischmann says he’s seen worse.
“I’ll say this: We had much more tense moments on other issues throughout my tenure,” he said. “Obviously there are concerns. The vast majority of my conference is like me, we want to keep the government open, we want to keep it functioning. And I think that’s important.”
Fleischmann, a House appropriator, voted for a continuing resolution last week to fund the government ahead of the government shutdown.
“I wish we could get to a point where we actually did budgets, perhaps for one year or for two years, so that we could address the needs of the nation, especially on the discretionary side of the budget, which is so important,” he said.
The latest appropriations process, he said, has been different from previous ones.
“The House Appropriations committee in the last year worked very hard to pass all 12 appropriations bills,” Fleischmann said. “I’m an early person. I’m great at 5 in the morning; I’m tired at 5 at night. Having said that, we stayed up till midnight for about two weeks straight to pass all the appropriations bills in the House. Unfortunately, our friends in the Senate did not get that done.”
In the meantime, he’s looking ahead. He’ll attend his eighth State of the Union at the end of the month, bringing his friend Loong Yong as a guest. Fleischmann calls the businessman, who was born and raised in Malaysia and now runs a company in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a “great American success story.”
“I think we want to reward people, like Loong, who are part of the American Dream. They came here, they worked hard, they became great successes, they give back,” he said.
And baseball season starts in the spring. To prepare for the Congressional Baseball Game, Fleischmann goes for a run and does pushups most mornings.
“I’m 55 now, so I’m playing against and with folks who are sometimes 20 years younger than me. I’m very fortunate I can keep up,” he said. “If you ask the coach, he will probably still say I’m one of the fastest players on the team. A few years ago, I looked up from the dugout. President [Barack] Obama was standing there, and he said, ‘You’re still good.’”
“I said, ‘Yes, sir, Mr. President.’”