Monday, June 20, 2011

Local Official Participates in Congressman Barton's Mock Congress

This past weekend, your Crockett Mayor and about 150 other constituents from Congressman Joe Barton’s 6th District participated in a Mock United States Congress Event in Arlington. It was only the second time Congressman Barton has held such an event and the first time for me as the Mayor to participate. I have always been deeply interested in politics and the budget process, and this gave all of us a hands-on opportunity to actually ‘be’ members of Congress and work towards passing a budget. It was fascinating.

Each of us was assigned a different member of Congress, some Republicans and some Democrats. For the entire weekend, your job was to ‘play the part’ of the member of Congress, and vote as they would actually vote. We each wore large name placards that made it easy to identify who you were and what party you were affiliated with. The Democrats wore blue placards and the Republicans wore red. I was assigned to ‘play’ Oklahoma Republican Congressman Frank Lucas, Chairman of the Agriculture Committee. I had to give an opening statement to the committee just like they do in the real Congress. The Agriculture Committee met and heard real testimony from different groups representing actual agriculture issues in our state. Giving testimony at our Agriculture Committee hearing was a group from the Tarrant Area Food Bank as well as a 5th generation farmer from Hill County.

The following day, the Agriculture Committee had the task of determining just how much money to send to the Budget Committee. There was some honest debate and frank discussion but in the end, the Ag Committee passed to the Budget Committee a number of $17.2 billion in discretionary spending. President Obama’s proposed budget for agriculture was an estimated $27 billion. Keep in mind something I wasn’t aware of, the Agriculture portion is only one quarter of 1% of the entire federal budget. Other authorizing committees included Armed Services, Energy and Commerce, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Ways and Means. As well as the committee assignments, there was also the Budget Committee, Rules Committee and the important Appropriations Committee. Each committee submitted their respective budgets to the Budget Committee, who then passed it on to the Appropriations Committee for further review, eventually bringing three different budget versions to the House floor for debate.

Throughout the day, Congressman Barton and staff were there to assist in the process, but for the most part, the event was designed to mimic the actual Congressional process. Throughout the day, there were party caucuses where we met to strategize about the issues important to our party. You had to take breaks for lunch, etc. when you were finished with your committee assignments.

For those of you who are fans of WBAP radio station in Dallas, Mark Davis played the part of Speaker of the House John Boehner. He did an excellent job and kept us all in good humor through the entire process. In the end, just like as the current House sits, the Republicans had the majority and we actually passed the Budget, using the Congressman Paul Ryan Budget model.

I want to thank Congressman Barton for holding this event, and thank his staff, including Karla Carr, Congressman Barton’s District Assistant from here in Houston County. There is a good chance that due to redistricting, we will lose U.S. Congressman Joe Barton as our representative here in Houston County, and unfortunately, we will be losing one of the best. It was a great event and a great opportunity to see first hand how Washington politics works. The picture above is me wearing the red Congressman Lucas placard, Karla Carr, District Assistant to Congressman Barton from Houston County, and Congressman Joe Barton.

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