Jared Huffman reflects on freshman year in Congress

  • Rep. Jared Huffman talks with Pt. Reyes ranchers Kayla, Joey and Jarrod Mendoza, now the 4th generation owners of the historic B Ranch near the lighthouse. (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Phyllis Holloway of Independence, Mo., was horrified that the House of Representatives went home for the holidays last month, letting unemployment benefits expire for 1.3 million jobless workers.

She called her congressman to express her outrage, even though he represents 413,309 constituents on the North Coast of California, half a continent away from her home near the Missouri-Kansas border.

Democratic Rep. Jared Huffman of San Rafael said, in essence: "Me, too, mom."

Reflecting on his freshman year in the House of Representatives, Huffman said he, like his mother, was offended by House Speaker John Boehner's comment -#8212; "we've done our work" -#8212; at the close of the least productive year in recent congressional history.

"We're all angry," Huffman said during a lengthy interview in his downtown San Rafael office.

Americans' approval rating of Congress plunged in November to 9 percent, the lowest ever in the Gallup poll's 39-year history of asking the question.

The first term of the 113th Congress ended a month later with the enactment of 71 bills, the lowest total in decades, leaving the carpeted chambers on Capitol Hill littered with major actions left undone, including an overhaul of immigration laws, a farm/food stamps bill, gun violence prevention and unemployment insurance.

Congress' most memorable handiwork in 2013 was likely the 16-day government shutdown that cost the economy $24 billion, according to the financial ratings agency Standard - Poor's.

Huffman, like many pundits, blamed obstructionist Republicans for the lack of action on Capitol Hill, especially in the GOP-controlled House, where Boehner largely caved in to pressure from the arch-conservative tea party faction.

"The (Democratic) minority in the House is virtually powerless," said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.

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