Five Months in, Raskin Adjusts to Capitol Hill

By Ana Faguy

After 10 years in the state Senate, freshman Congressman Jamie Raskin (D) is adjusting to Capitol Hill but is occasionally thinking wistfully about his former life.

“Having spent five months there [Congress] I’ve got some really wonderful things to say about Annapolis and Rockville,” Raskin joked Monday as he spoke to the board of directors of the group Committee for Montgomery.

Raskin spoke about his political education — he began his remarks with “a few reflections and impressions of a newcomer to Congress.”

With loud laughs and a moment of clapping, Raskin elaborated, explaining the challenges he has faced going from the State House, where Democrats have strong majorities in the legislature, to the U.S. Capitol, where the GOP is in firm control. He illustrated the stark contrast between the two places.

“For example, in Annapolis we have hearings on all the bills,” Raskin said. “That sounds like a radical concept doesn’t it? I’ve been amazed that for the vast majority of the bills that I’ve been voting on, both in committee markups and on the house floor, we never had a hearing on them.”

Raskin said that reality became apparent at the beginning of his term, when the push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act was taking place.

Since he was sworn in in January, Raskin has been learning the job.

“I’ve been very focused on the budgetary stuff,” he said. “As you know we’ve got 88,000 federal workers who live in this congressional district.”

Raskin again pointed out the differences between Annapolis and Washington when talking about the state of the bureaucracy.

“When I was in Annapolis sometimes I would hear from state workers who were the subject of investigations because they were allegedly not doing their jobs, not showing up, or doing something else,” Raskin said. “That’s what I would hear about every once in a while there. What I hear about in Washington is people who are getting in trouble for doing their jobs because somebody who’s been put in as a political appointment doesn’t want them to be doing the scientific research or the health research or so on that they’re doing.”

The remarks were followed by a Q&A from the audience. This was a crowd of insiders — and old friends for Raskin; Committee for Montgomery is made up of political, business, civic and labor leaders who push the county’s agenda in Annapolis and at the federal level.

Questions covered a range of issues, including what to do in the present political climate, the state of transportation and infrastructure projects and what the congressman is doing to help to help veterans.

Raskin said that he, like the rest of the country, is adjusting to the new normal — and to the limitations of being a freshman in the minority party.

“I have found that I can’t solve the Russian connection and I myself am not going to determine the outcome of the health care debate in America,” he said. “The place where I can have the most impact is on specific budget items on specific lines or phrases within the budget or other federal legislation that effects us directly.”

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