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A New Jersey Democrat On His Lack Of Wins In Congress


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.

On Capitol Hill this week, another congressman is calling it quits. Representative Rob Andrews, a Democrat from New Jersey, will be resigning a week from Tuesday. In his 23 years in Congress, Andrews proposed 646 bills, and none of them was ever enacted. The Washington Post called it the, quote, "worst record of the last 20 years."

I spoke with Andrews earlier this week and asked him to respond to that headline.

REPRESENTATIVE ROB ANDREWS: The way bills are passed here is that you put an idea out there and then you get it into a larger piece of moving legislation like the defense bill or the health care bill. And the gross inaccuracy in that article is that I think we've managed to pass close to 200 pieces of legislation the last five or six years that way. Those who used to watch "Schoolhouse Rock!" - I'm just a bill on Capitol Hill - that's not the way it ever works. That freestanding bill's essentially never get enacted.

RATH: Obviously, there's a lot of cynicism about Washington these days. And it's kind of hard for people to get a sense of how things work clearly in Washington and how their laws are made.

ANDREWS: I think it's because people are not focused on process. They're rightfully focused on outcomes, on results. Here's the things that have changed. If you're 25 and your parents have health insurance, you can stay on their policy. If you had skin cancer when you're 35, you can't be denied a health insurance policy now because you had skin cancer. People are not interested in process. They're interested in the effect that laws have on their lives and how those laws could be made better.

So it's kind of a parlor game in Washington of watching process, but the other 99.9 percent of people in the country are very interested in the result that process has on them. That's what I have focused on here.

RATH: And does that come across for people that they have a sense of, you know, you as their individual congressman can get things done for them?

ANDREWS: I kind of think it does. I mean, I'm very humbled by the fact that the last time I stood for election in 2012, I received the highest number of votes of any congressional candidate in the history of the state of New Jersey for the House of Representatives. And so I think those 205,000 people, whatever it was, kind of answered that question. I'm very grateful to them.

RATH: The House opened an ethics investigation over a year ago looking into misuse of campaign money to fund personal travel. Did that have anything to do with your resignation?

ANDREWS: Not at all. My decision was based upon the fact that the chance to join a very prominent law firm that's run by people that I have looked at as friends and mentors for a long time offered me a chance to do work that I love in a way that would help my family become more stable, be able to educate my kids. And I, you know, willingly took the opportunity. That was why I made this decision.

RATH: Finally, there are a number of retirements this year, and you're the eighth of the House Democrats to announce plans to leave office this year. What do you think about the elections this year that are coming up?

ANDREWS: I think the Republicans are going to have a very difficult time explaining why they obstructed policies that the president helped create seven million jobs. They're going to have a hard time explaining why on nearly 50 occasions, they tried to repeal a health care bill that's gotten nine million people health insurance. They're going to have a hard time explaining why after the Senate overwhelmingly passed a necessary immigration reform bill, they won't even put it up for a vote. They're going to have a hard time explaining why as millions of Americans have had their unemployment benefits expire, they won't even put that up for a vote. I don't envy them for that position. I think it gives us a significant advantage in the midterm election.

RATH: That's Representative Rob Andrews of New Jersey. His last day in office is February 18th. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.