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Hey RedState Choir! I need to stop preaching to you and start working on some letters to the editor, so please excuse the brevity of my report.
Upon entering the House chamber, I expected to see a Republican pep rally. Instead, it was much more like stepping into a Normal Rockwell painting. Average Americans, in a national crisis were looking to our leadership for help. I was able to stay for 90 minutes, but would have been happy to listen all day if I could.
Most in attendance were families on summer vacation touring the Capitol. The format of the session was informal but informative. The Representatives took turns approximately 15 minutes long to talk to the visitors, almost all of whom sat on the House floor, about the energy debate and the House procedures driving it. Members speaking during my stay were Representatives Louie Gohmert (TX-01), Michael Burgess (TX-26), Pete Sessions (TX-32), Steve Scalise (LA-01) as well as one each from California and Kentucky whose names I could not make out. Specific topics discussed during while I was there included:
-Oil production in the ANWR
-Energy independence as it relates to national security
-”Drill here” job creation
-Safety of offshore drilling
-Supply and demand
-The role of the rules committee
-The power of the Speaker of the House
-The power of the majority
-The importance of an up or down vote on offshore drilling
I estimate that there were 200 people in attendance at any given time, of whom 125 appeared to be of voting age. Most people seemed to stay for about 30 minutes, or two speakers. Based on five hours of speechmaking, I assess that the Republicans are directly reaching about 1250 eligible voters every day.
Each Republican speaker that I saw received rousing applause or a standing ovation after his talk. When I moved to the gallery, I observed only five tourists who did not clap at all.
The crowd was not apparently partisan, but rather eager for getting fuel prices under control. Rep. Sessions introduced Democratic Rep. Pete Visclosky (IN-01) when he arrived on the House floor with a tour of his constituents. Whether he is in DC because of high gas prices was unclear to me, but he received warm applause just for showing up.
Outside the Longworth House Office Building, I overheard one female tourist, about 40 years old, ecstatically talking to someone via cell phone about her family’s opportunity to sit on the House floor, so I do believe that the word will spread. I am sure that each family will return home and tell a few people about the experience. Perhaps when the adults return to work, they will have a new set of gas price talking points for the water cooler; however, I do no know if 18,750 people constitutes a critical mass for action.
If I may make some respectful recommendations:
-Representatives, you are doing fabulous work. Your speeches are easy to understand and have great imagery and analogies that your audience will remember. I was able to hear you clearly when I was in the gallery.
-As carefully as I was trying to hear your names, I couldn’t make them out. I did my best to write what I heard and then had to look you up on the internet later. This is important because the first thing my husband asked me was, “Who did you see?” If you can, please have your staffers pass out your business cards to visitors while you talk.
-Please consider allowing 5 minutes for questions and answers at the end of your time. It would bring home the idea that it is the people’s House.
-If you can linger on the floor after you speak, it would give visitors the chance to say something to you personally. I wish I could have shaken each of your hands simply because you did such a great job. Alternatively, you could announce that you will be in your office for visitors for 45 minutes.
-You seem to be downplaying this monumental event because the Democrats have called it “a publicity stunt.” I believe this is playing right into their hands in the worst tradition of the Republican party. In addition to your work on the House floor, please try to meet the public somewhere where they can take pictures.
All in all, it was a great experience and I encourage everyone in the DC area to take some time and get there before it is all over.