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Former Lawmakers Let Go of the Congressional Life
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Former Lawmakers Let Go of the Congressional Life

Politics

Former Lawmakers Let Go of the Congressional Life

Former Lawmakers Let Go of the Congressional Life
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Nobody was maudlin enough to say it quite this way, but for 27 members of Congress, today was the first day of the rest of their lives. Some are retiring voluntarily. Others were fired by the voters last month. They spent Tuesday morning getting advice on how to disengage from Capitol Hill and find new careers.

Groucho Marx had the line about not wanting to belong to any club that would have him as a member. For the newly defeated, that might be the United States Association of Former Members of Congress.

The association's president, former congressman Jim Slattery, was already speaking when congresswoman Katherine Harris arrived.

"Katherine, good to see you this morning," Slattery said. "I was just commenting, I'm a little bit reluctant as to how to address you all, to say 'welcome to the association as former members,' you know. "

Democrat Slattery lost a bid for governor of Kansas 12 years ago. Republican Harris got buried last month in a Senate landslide in Florida.

If Congress is a place of absolute privilege for lawmakers, you could listen and almost feel those privileges slipping away. Like free parking.

"The parking plate that you have," said Don Kellaher, from the House Sergeant at Arms, "I wouldn't use that around D.C. too much, but it certainly will still give you access up here."

And when Bob Hess, head of the Congressional Federal Credit Union, delivered his sales pitch, he added, "We do have almost 45,000 members of the credit union, so sometimes some of my staff may not pick up on your name when you call in, so please don't hesitate to identify yourself."

Then again, nobody visibly winced at Linda Ortega, from the finance office, when she explained, "Your final paycheck will be February 1 and that will be a two-day paycheck. Out of the two-day paycheck we will take your full health insurance premium."

A gaggle of successful former lawmakers came in to talk about job prospects. Nobody wanted a reporter around for that. But panelist Jim Coyne, a one-term member who now runs the National Air Transportation Association, summarized afterward, "Our message was, in many respects, 'You're just beginning the most interesting part of your life.'"

As the session broke up, Rep. Harris said her immediate plans are to travel abroad and to spend more time with her family. Most of the other newly defeated lawmakers kept their heads down and kept walking.

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