Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers welcomes constituents to DC with first-of-its-kind approach
WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s 9:30 a.m. Wednesday morning and business as usual on Capitol Hill. A line extends out the door of the Rayburn House Office Building with a mix of tourists, convention attendees, lobbyist and congressional staffers waiting to clear security. They’re here for any number of reasons — a White House or U.S. Capitol tour, attend a committee hearing, or to just come to work.
Up and down the street out front, Independence Avenue, the buzz is all about French President Emmanuel Macron’s arrival to Capitol Hill. Macron and his wife were the honorees of President Donald Trump’s first State Dinner a night earlier, and Macron will be addressing a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in less than two hours.
Up a flight of stairs on what is technically the first floor, Rep Mike Rogers (R-Saks) and four of his constituents are huddled around a coffee table laid out with coffee and doughnut holes from Dunkin’ Donuts. Rogers is explaining his frustrations with the latest iteration of the farm bill, an ordinarily non-partisan piece of legislation. In this Congress, however, it is being used by his Democratic colleagues as a political tool, Rogers gripes.
This is no different than what likely is going on in any other member’s House office. The exception is the attendees aren’t representatives of any particular interest group or lobby. They’re the respondents to an open invitation sent out to Rogers’ constituents in Alabama’s third congressional district that stretches from Cherokee County in northeastern Alabama south along the Georgia state line to Russell County and includes Anniston, Auburn, Opelika and Phenix City. The event Rogers is hosting is called “Mornings with Mike.” It’s somewhat in its infancy and has been held on Wednesdays while Congress is in session since February.
“It’s really more about what they’re doing,” Rogers said to Yellowhammer News. “I like to find out about their time here, why they’re here and what they’re going to see. They want to know what we’re doing, what the action of the day is.”
It’s an unprecedented approach to connecting with constituents. Rogers’ press secretary Shea Snider Miller says she is unaware of any other member hosting visitors in this regular fashion, and if they do, the member is often not a part of it.
“We want people to know what they should do if they’re going to come up here to visit is plan it at least four to six weeks ahead of time,” Rogers explained. “It is hard to get people in the White House if we don’t have at least that amount of time. There are security checks.”
In this capacity, Rogers’ office functions somewhat as a tour operator given most of those visitors want to see the White House and the U.S. Capitol. They have to come to Rogers’ office for those tours, but with the weekly event scheduled to be held every Wednesday while lawmakers are in town, it gives people from the third congressional district an opportunity to get face time with their member of Congress.
“It would be hit or miss when they come by if they get to visit with me because we’re all over the place,” he said. “I’m on three committees. I’m at hearings all the time, briefings. I got stuff on the floor, a bunch of fundraisers — I mean all kinds of stuff that we’re doing. We set this time aside so we could say, ‘While you’re here if you want to be sure to see Mike, this time is set aside, and he always comes to this. Otherwise, he may or may not be in the office when you come to your tour.'”
Rogers says he doesn’t hear too many complaints or concerns about politics or the federal government in these meetings.
“It’s usually very pleasant,” he added. “It’s all vacation.”
— Mike Rogers (@RepMikeRogersAL) April 4, 2018