Election 2016

You Vote For Them, But What Does Your Congressman Actually Do?

By Adam Uren | October 20, 2016 | SOURCE: GoMN

Nov. 8 is about more than just Clinton vs. Trump, Minnesotans will cast their votes for a host of candidates and ballot issues – among them their choice for U.S. Representative. 

Given they have to fight to retain their seat every two years and with the ubiquitousness of re-election/attack ads every other fall, you’d be forgiven for thinking your member of Congress is in constant campaigning mode.

So once you’ve voted them in, what is it they actually do? GoMN has asked two Minnesota U.S. Representatives, U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, a Republican, and Democrat Rick Nolan, to provide a rundown of a typical few days in their lives representing you.


Today, we take a look at Rep. Nolan, who in November is up against Republican candidate Stewart Mills to represent Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, which covers northeastern Minnesota, including Duluth, Brainerd and the Iron Range.

He tells us he has a life of early mornings, traveling around the state, and making maple syrup in the little free time he has.

A day in Minnesota

Rep. Nolan tends to spend the weekend plus either Friday or Monday in Minnesota when Congress is in session, before traveling to D.C. on either on Monday or Tuesday until Thursday or Friday.

This year’s session lasted 111 days, meaning he will spend the bulk of the year in Minnesota, although this year’s session was short compared to 2015’s.

For Rep. Nolan, the day starts at 5 a.m. with the perusal of national and Minnesota newspapers, before he “hits the road” around 7-8 a.m. to attend his first meeting.

“The Eighth District sprawls from the Canadian border, all the way down to Chisago County – and from Wisconsin to Wadena County – so he spends a lot of time in the car, where he’ll utilize the windshield time by reviewing memos, constituent mail, scheduling, signing letters, doing paperwork and reading any one of our 50-plus weekly local newspapers,” Nolan’s spokesperson Samantha Bisogno says.

His schedule for the day will range from roundtables to tours of small businesses, medal-pinning ceremonies for veterans, and various meetings. “No two days are alike,” Bisogno adds.

His day ends around 8-9 p.m – clocking in at around 13-14 hours.

A day in D.C.

His day starts at the same time and in the same way: reading the newspapers. At around 8 a.m. he will get a legislative update from his staff, before beginning his round of daily committee meetings, policy briefings and constituent meetings.

It’s not just meetings, with Nolan also spending time to review mail from constituents, sign letters and do paperwork.

“When votes are called, he takes the opportunity to connect with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to discuss legislation and build relationships,” Bisogno says.

“His day usually ends around 8-9 p.m. by discussing upcoming legislative issues with his staff and attending several events held by various groups that have flown in from Minnesota to meet with their elected representatives.”

In the House

Alongside his daily duties, Nolan will spend time during the week trying to secure time on the House floor, working with committees and House leadership so his bill proposals get some attention.

As one of the House’s 435 lawmakers, he will join his colleagues to introduce legislation and amendments to bills in his two committees on the floor, and will network to recruit co-sponsors for his legislation.

He says he regularly communicates with federal agencies as he “conducts oversight and advocacy” relating to programs that affect his Minnesota district.

He also meets weekly with the other “anti-TPP” members of Congress as they fight against the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which could have an impact on jobs in his district, and will also organize briefings and meetings on behalf of local constituents.

Free time in the rugged outdoors

As for free time, he doesn’t get very much. Bisogno says the life of a congressman is so intensive that Rep. Nolan generally works six or seven days a week.

On the occasions he gets a free Saturday or Sunday, he’ll spend it with his wife, Mary, and his four children should they be available, attending grandchildren’s basketball games or golf tournaments.

In keeping with the 8th District’s outdoor lifestyle, something both he and Mills have been keen to reference in their campaign ads, Nolan says when he gets the chance he’ll take to the lakes in a canoe to harvest wild rice.

He says he’ll hunt and fish with his family, taps and boils maple syrup with his wife, and has plenty of yard-work to keep him occupied.


Today, we take a look at Rep. Emmer, who in November is up against Democrat candidate David Snyder to represent Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, which covers east-central Minnesota, including St. Cloud and Anoka County. (Read about Nolan’s typical day here.)

His life is one of company tours, constituent meetings, fundraisers, special sessions and morning runs.

His time in Minnesota

Whether in Minnesota or Washington, D.C., Rep. Emmer’s day always starts with a morning run taken shortly after waking up.

When in his district, he will typically leave home just after 8 a.m., marking the start of a 12-hour day of obligations and visits. According to his spokesperson Rebecca Alery, a typical week will include “tours of companies, construction sites or manufacturing locations” and “meetings with individual constituents, donors, organizations and other government agencies.”

More recently, because the election is just a few weeks away, his days often include “call time, donor meetings or fundraisers for himself or other Republican candidates,” not to mention preparations for his debate against Snyder.

His team has actually provided a couple of his recent, jam-packed schedules that how he fills his days, which includes several speaking events at education institutions.

Wednesday, Oct. 13

  • Wakes up.
  • Goes for a run.
  • 8:15 a.m. Departs hosue.
  • 9 a.m. Meeting in office with local organization.
  • 9:30 a.m. Call time.
  • 11:30 a.m. Speak at Wright County Economic Development Partnership.
  • 2 p.m. Attend classified FBI briefing.
  • 3:15 p.m. Film weekly video.
  • 4 p.m. Debate prep.
  • 5:20 p.m. Candidate forum.
  • 8 p.m. Returns home.

Tuesday – Oct. 18

  • Wakes up.
  • Goes for a run.
  • 8 a.m. Departs house.
  • 9 a.m. Star Tribune editorial board meeting.
  • 10 a.m. Newspaper interview.
  • 12:15pm a.m. Candidate forum.
  • 2 p.m. St. Johns College Republicans.
  • 4:30 p.m. Speaks at Lights on Afterschool Event.
  • 6 p.m. Speaks to class at Hamline University.
  • 8 p.m. Returns home.

His time in Washington, D.C.

With the Potomac River, National Mall and countless museums as a backdrop, Emmer has slightly more historic surroundings for his early morning runs in the nation’s capital.

A typical week when the House is in session will include committee hearings, with Emmer sitting on the House Committee on Financial Services and two subcommittees on financial institutions/consumer credit and monetary policy and trade, according to GovTrack.

That’s not to mention meetings with the GOP Conference, the Republican study committee, and whip time, as well as heading to the House floor for votes, debates and speeches.

His office is busy too, with industry “folks,” constituents and organizations all paying him a visit, while Emmer himself will make donor calls and attend fundraisers.

“Most evenings include a reception (or five),” Alery adds.

Here’s a look at a Session Day schedule for the 6th District representative.

Session Day: Sept. 13

  • Wakes up
  • Runs
  • 7 a.m. Republican Main Street Partnership Members Meeting.
  • 8 a.m. Conference meeting.
  • 9 a.m. Committee markup.
  • 9:30 a.m. Meeting with American Israel Public Affairs Committee National Council Members.
  • 11 a.m. Speaks at Brookings Executive Education Summit.
  • 11:30 a.m. Meeting with Minnesota Farm Bureau.
  • Noon Interview with Linder Farm Network.
  • 12:30 p.m. Interview with National Conference of State Legislatures.
  • 1:15 p.m. Meeting with Ambulatory Surgery Center Association.
  • 2 p.m. Meeting with Department of Minnesota Veterans of Foreign Wars.
  • 3 p.m. Stewart Mills fundraiser.
  • 3:30 p.m. Gov. Pence reception.
  • 5 p.m. Rack of Pork reception.
  • 5:30 p.m. Donor meeting.
  • 6 p.m. Dinner reception.
  • 8 p.m. Returns home

His free time

This year’s House session lasted 111 days, and Rep. Emmer doesn’t hang around the capital once the session week is over, flying back to Minnesota’s 6th District come the end of the session.

Much like Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan, who was featured in Thursday, there’s very little respite for a working congressman, with Emmer saying he took the job “understanding that it is a 24/7 position to serve” his constituents.

But, of course, he has a family, and so when he does get a bit of free time he spends it with his wife and children. This can include attending football and hockey games, “helping his wife in the yard or around the house,” and going to weekly church services.

And, of course, his morning runs.

See original article here.