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Postcards From the Capitol : California's 17 rookie members of the House have been tredding the Capitol corridors for five months now--long enough to adjust to the daily madness, clash with the apostles of status quo, and begin to separate myth from reality. Here, in their own words, is the newspaper equivalent of a postcard home from five of them:

June 03, 1993|These interviews were conducted by Times Staff Writers James Bornemeier, Glenn F. Bunting, Robert W. Stewart, Alan C. Miller and Howard Libit

Rep. Jay C. Kim (R-Diamond Bar)

There are quite a few congressmen, I've noticed, if you don't mind me saying, I don't see them at all. They never appear at committee meetings, they never say anything on the floor, they never initiate any bills, and yet they go back to their districts and flat out lie to their people: They've done this and they've done that. How can they do that?

Then there is such a strong seniority system. There was a congressman been here since World War II, 54 years, before I was born, even. And also a lot of arrogance, a very arrogant attitude. Committee chairmen, you know how they become a chairman? Being here long. That's ridiculous.

There are a lot of congressmen, they are totally out of touch with the real world. For private business, you have to worry about how to meet the payroll, how to generate profit.

This job is different. I don't have to worry about generating profit. All my staff salaries are being paid by taxpayers. All I have to do is spend. What kind of a job is this? No wonder those guys want to be here 50 years. All they have to do is spend.

I've been spending all my time here in the tunnel (between Cannon House Office Building and the Capitol.) It's a very complicated tunnel system. I'm an expert now. I don't know what's going on outside. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, all day long, tunnel. I don't even know where the Smithsonian is. I would love to visit there.

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Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma)

When I look at the big picture, President Clinton is doing fine. He's so intelligent that he'll learn lessons from what isn't working. But I'm ready for him to kick butt. By temperament, he's a consensus-builder, but the time has come for him to be more of a bully to get his programs passed.

On Capitol Hill, the biggest surprise is that it's actually possible to get some things done. That's a relief.

I continue to be impressed by how the (House) hierarchy is getting pushed to change from above and below, but I don't think there will be significant reforms (in House operations) anytime soon. The government apparatus is inefficient. As a businesswoman, this is real obvious. But I haven't been here long enough to know the best way to fix it. I think that would be presumptuous.

Overall, I'm surprised at how well-accepted we (freshmen) are. We have to be reckoned with as a group, even though we don't always agree on every issue. But it's hard to get even three seconds to talk to each other. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the breakfast meetings start at 8, and my day often doesn't end until 10.

I've been very glad to see how the California delegation--Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative--has pulled together, particularly on base-closing and defense conversion issues. These are huge problems and we really need to work together.

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Rep. Michael Huffington (R-Santa Barbara):

If you ever went to a football game, sometimes the teams enter the field on either side and you have fans lined up saying, "Yay! Let's go! Charge!" Well, as you enter the floor of the House of Representatives you have congressmen lined up saying, "Vote no! Vote no! Vote no!"

These people coming in don't know what they are voting for. Then later they say, "What did we vote on?" Now that's terrible. I at least know what I'm voting on.

What I've learned is that the way the system works can be appalling at times. The American people would be amazed at some of the things that go on.

The other day we had a vote on buying American, in essence. It was the first amendment the Republicans won. A lot of Democrats jumped on board. All of a sudden they realized we had won. The Democrats started going up to the chair and changing their vote from a nay to a yea.

Why did they vote the other way the first time? This was obvious. They didn't want to look like they were voting against buying American.

Only about 40 people run the House and they are all Democrats. I'd like to see all those people go. I'd like to see senior Republicans go as well and bring people in who are fresh.

We waste time. Everything we've done, literally every vote we've taken, could have been done now in a span of two weeks.

This is not a well-run organization. I can understand why. You have over half the Congress who are lawyers. Lawyers don't know how to run a business. They are very good at writing laws, but terrible at running Congress.

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Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Atherton)

What I'm struck with is this continuing, ongoing perception that so many people have. They think you move here and plant yourself inside the Beltway and that you have all sorts of leisure time, but you don't. I have been working seven days a week since I was sworn in.

I don't even know what exhibits are here in town except for what I read in the newspaper. Save for the short commute from my apartment to the Hill, I haven't even seen the flowers in bloom. I don't really mind as long as I feel that what I am doing is making a difference....

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