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Life in Congress — it isn’t like in the movies



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"Most people are nice when I call them back," he adds.

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Why Washington sucks » In D.C., Bishop is known as Utah’s go-to guy on military issues and public lands and sits on the two pertinent committees. But to constituents back home in the 1st Congressional District, Bishop is the guy asked to explain why everything in Washington sucks.

"I don’t know why [people] expect me to do something and magically get everything done," he says.

Still, with a small team of legislative assistants, he tries.

It’s 10:22 a.m. And the Rules Committee sends out a note about a possible meeting to be called later in the day. Eight minutes later, Bishop is discussing strategy on immigration-reform bills to try and push his effort to allow the Border Patrol to waive environmental laws.

At 11 a.m., the office is buzzing. Bishop laughs at an email newsletter from the Republican Study Committee that left out a key letter in the word "shift."

"Are you allowed to wear seersuckers when the sun isn’t out?" asks Chief of Staff Scott Parker, the first of eight aides who have arrived for a daily confab. Bishop’s subcommittee will meet three consecutive days the next week, a bevy of legislation is waiting in the hopper and the congressman gets an update on who is testifying about what.

"Could you find enough witnesses?" he quips, peering over a list of eight experts for a single hearing.


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On the record » There’s debate about whether Bishop should press Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on whether the administration will use its unilateral power to designate more national monuments. They know what she’ll say, of course, but want her on the record. He ends up asking other questions.

Days are planned out months in advance and Bishop’s office is planning to convene a joint hearing in how the U.S. Park Police lost track of service weapons.

"Look, anyone can lose a thousand guns," Bishop jokes. "Give them a break."

Gun jokes are instantly popular in the room and the briefing breaks up, five minutes over schedule.

In Congress, everything is over schedule.

"Typically there is no typical day," says Bishop’s Utah GOP colleague, Jason Chaffetz. "You start off with a well-planned calendar and by the time lunch rolls around, it’s inevitably blown up."

Chaffetz notes during one cold winter, he went three days without stepping outside; the Utahn sleeps in his office. There are early mornings and late nights, and little rest for the weary, Chaffetz adds, noting Hollywood’s version of Congress isn’t very accurate.

"It looks good in the movies but not part of my reality," Chaffetz says, noting that members are restricted to toothpick-type appetizers at any lobbyist-paid receptions. "You can’t have a sit-down dinner unless you’re personally paying for it."

Retail politics » Back in Bishop’s office, the Utah Retail Merchants Association is up next, seeking Bishop’s support for legislation to require big online-only shops to collect sales taxes like brick-and-mortar stores do.

"Before we begin, Jashon: great kid," says the group’s president Dave Davis, referring to Bishop’s youngest son. Small talk and compliments always help with lobbying.

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