Recess Isn't Just Playtime for This Rep.
In a single day, Rep. Anne Northup serves pizza, defends budget bill, reads to children.
It's 7:30 a.m. and Rep. Anne Northup (R) of Kentucky, freshman congresswoman, stands in the kitchen of her suburban-Louisville white-clapboard Colonial. The mother of six has already dropped one son off at the bus back to college and sent her youngest off to his high school's opening day.Skip to next paragraph
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Now she's going through mail and discussing the day's news, mainly the United Parcel Service strike settlement, with her husband, while trying to get someone out to repair the TV. She has a busy schedule ahead, squeezing precious few personal appointments into a schedule of meetings and appearances that will last 15 hours.
Welcome to congressional "recess." Although members of Congress are out of Washington until after Labor Day, they're rarely off the job. While many - including Representative Northup - will use some of their time away from Capitol Hill for family vacations or official trips, no member can afford to neglect his or her constituents during the break.
The demands on a member's time are nearly overwhelming and come from a variety of individuals and organizations in a district. Northup half jokes that her staff has to divide even 45-minute segments of the day in half in order to fit everyone and everything in. Some appointments involve important businesses or employers in the district, others are issues she is personally interested in. Yet others are simply people that clearly need help from a sympathetic person in power.
Often the three coincide. Northup draws a good deal of her passion on issues from her roles as a wife and mother of an interracial family: Two of her children are adopted. Her economics degree and one-time teaching career come into play as well.
The ability to connect with people she meets, along with a seemingly endless supply of energy, are crucial weapons in Northup's political arsenal - all the more so since she won election last fall by a mere 1,299 votes.
As she does most Wednesdays, Northup participates in a live phone interview with WWKY radio host Stew Williams around 7:40. Today he asks what her biggest frustration is so far. "Washington is so much more political than what I dealt with even in Frankfort [in the state legislature]," she says. "When you're talking with somebody in the other party, you can start to see the wheels turning: 'How will this help us in the next election?' " It's a theme she'll repeat all day - a day full of endless questions.
At 8:20, Northup arrives at Baptist Hospital East to meet with members of the Kentucky Hospital Association. She talks a few minutes about the challenges of reforming health care and the recent budget bill's changes in Medicare and Medicaid. Questions follow: What about the newly authorized provider networks? Why do providers bear the brunt of belt-tightening by Congress? What must states do with the new money for children's health care?
After the hour-long meeting, it's off to a private appointment and then a 10:30 meeting in her office with Sister Anne Rita Mauck - to discuss schools for children diagnosed with learning disabilities.
After the 40-minute discussion, Northup is off to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul's Open Hand Kitchen, which she visits every few months to help serve lunch to about 150 poor men and women. Surrounded by turn-of-the-century stained-glass windows, she dishes up pizza and chicken patties at a steam table in the back of a church-sanctuary-cum-dining-hall.
At 12:05 a staff member drives Northup to St. Matthews, a Louisville suburb, where a business association is sponsoring a panel discussion of welfare reform. She cautions that changing people's habits and behavior takes time and makes a pitch for business to help. She fields more questions on topics ranging from illegal immigration to the strength of the economy.