/A Guest in a divided House Mississippi’s newest congressman adjusts to life on Capitol Hill

A Guest in a divided House Mississippi’s newest congressman adjusts to life on Capitol Hill

Guest enjoyed a pint of beer from a thin glass while he sipped under the signed headshots that presidents and congressional leaders had taken over decades. Guest sipped beer from a pint glass while he waited for his photograph to be taken at the Monocle. Guest was accompanied by two long-serving Mississippi senators, Trent Lott and Thad Corchran. The freshman congressman was dressed in jeans, work boots, and a fleece pullover. This outfit is within the dress code for the white table-clothed restaurant, although it was more casual. Guest acknowledged that his first week as a congressman was difficult after he had finished his steak. Guest’s family flew in to witness his swearing-in, but the celebration was postponed. After the votes, dinner was a quick bite in the House chamber. Delegates stayed to work through legislation until 10 p.m. Although the next day was shorter, it was just as hectic. There were more votes to be reviewed and many invitations to join conservative caucuses. Two reporters sat across the table from Guest said that they arrived at noon and were sworn in. Then, they went into a series voting process. Guest arrived in Washington during a period when Congress is rarely more divided or gridlocked. This was exemplified by the record-breaking partial government shutdown, which lasted five weeks. Guest, who served a decade in Madison and Rankin counties as the district attorney, spoke to Mississippi Today about his hopes for the next two-years. Guest was speaking to Mississippi Today at the end of his second week of office. Guest’s comments were made during a time when national attention was shifting from Guest to the House majority of progressive, diverse newcomers. The U.S. House of Representatives saw the entry of 111 freshmen, 44 Republicans and 67 Democrats, this was the largest class of newcomers since 1933 when the country was still recovering from the Great Depression. While some media outlets have suggested that the Democratic shift in Congress is an indictment of Trump’s Administration, Guest said it was an opportunity to work alongside new Democrats in order to accomplish the president’s agenda. Guest said that there are many incoming freshmen Democrats on the hall with whom I plan to build a friendship and a partnership. Guest’s first floor office in Cannon is opposite the one of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D.New York, a young progressive Democrat who has been a bete noire for conservative media. These issues can be much more difficult to navigate if they are strictly partisan. However, I believe it’s much easier to pass legislation to help Mississippi if Republicans and Democrats can come together. Guest avoided specifics and listed issues that were important to him, including military funding, rural hospitals, police body cameras and agriculture. Guest stated that these are issues that he hoped would resonate across parties and that he would agree with. Guest stated that those would be areas where he would like to have a voice and accomplish as many things as possible. Former U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper retired at the end the 115th Congress. He pointed out that learning how to compromise and make deals requires learning how the U.S. House operates. It takes a few terms and not weeks to learn how the U.S. House works. Harper stated that there is a steep learning curve especially for those who are in minority groups. Harper said that it’s more difficult and he must persevere. Michael is a smart and quick learner. He is a good friend and treats everyone with respect, even those he disagrees with. That’s an important trait in D.C.” However, fewer congressmen reach the level of seniority that will allow them to take advantage of this learning curve. The average tenure of House members has been steadily declining since 2007, from 10.3 to 8.6 years at the beginning of 2019. The average tenure of senators also has fallen from 13.1 years in 2007 to 10. Harper is a prime example. Harper’s announcement last spring of his retirement was shocking for many Mississippians. It came right as Harper had reached a certain level of seniority and influence as Chairman of the House Administration Committee. Harper said that even though he rose up the House ranks, his heart was still with his family in Pearl. Harper flew weekly to Washington. Harper laughed and said that he had achieved Diamond Medallion status with Delta. This means that he flew more than 125,000 miles in a single year. Harper said that travel was an important part of his decision to retire. There are many things to consider. First, I didn’t intend to be here my whole life. Guest stated that Harper’s experiences were on his mind as he and Haley discussed whether Harper and their children would be joining him in Washington if he was elected. Mississippi Today was told by former U.S. Senator Trent Lott that he had warned Harper years ago that success in Washington meant living in the city. The Guests decided to not uproot their teenage boys. “I told Harper the same thing that I told Michael Guest, but they didn’t listen. Lott stated that it was a mistake. “I took my family and my wife along. The job is in Washington. It is not in Jackson. Then you can return home every other week to work in your district. It’s just too hard to sleep on a mattress in your office and fly home every weekend. Guest doesn’t like the idea of sleeping on a blowup bed. He lives in a Capitol Hill apartment with a 1 bedroom. As the conversation turns from policy to personal life, it becomes clear that the new Congressman is often thinking about his Brandon family. “It’s difficult. You want to support your children as a parent. Guest stated that while my children do understand why I’m there and are able to see the reasons, it can sometimes be difficult for them to know that you’re not there pulling for them or running carpool. Guest looks at his hands and pauses. Lott said that he hopes Guest’s time in Congress will be a long one. The more productive the congressional tenure is, the better. “When I first started, I was an agitator… By retirement, I was known for being a deal-maker as well as a compromiser. Lott agreed. You must get to know people before you can do business with them. Lott stated that you need to eat dinner with them every night. Guest tried to get to know Rep. Bennie Thompson (the new Homeland Security chair), the lone Democrat from Mississippi’s delegation. They exchanged brief words on the House floor, and briefly spoke in committee meetings. The sitdown meeting that they had planned has been postponed twice due to House votes. Other allegiances were formed more quickly in the interim. He signed paperwork within a week for the Congressional Prayer Caucus. This caucus promotes many conservative Christian causes Guest supported. In less than a month, Guest had joined the Pro-Life Caucus as well as the Border Security Caucus. Guest stated, “What I want is to see and align myself to individuals through caucuses which will best benefit the citizens of Mississippi.” Two members of staff from Monocle walked up to a table shortly after Guest left. He thought that Guest had been addressed by reporters as “congressman” and he was waiting for one of Washington’s newest members. The waiter accented English to say, “He wasn’t wearing his pin.” You know that they all wear it when going out. He’s so young. He might not know.” The manager who was with him smiled and shook his heads. “He’ll learn.”