It’s been almost four years since Howe resident Marlin Stutzman was elected at a caucus to serve as U.S. Representative for District 3. He had already served in the Indiana State legislature and had run for U.S. Senate, so he had some political experience under his belt.
So, how has serving in Congress been over the past four years?
Rep. Stutzman was back in Howe for the Christmas break, a chance to get away from D.C. and to the place that is still home for him and his family. He took some time to discuss how life is different and the challenges of serving in Congress.
“There are a lot of similarities to state legislature,” he said, adding he was glad he had that experience prior to heading out east. “But the politics, the differences are starker. The problems are a lot bigger.”
But bigger problems should mean that the government wants to work on those issues. Or so one who has seen issues overcome in Indiana might think.
“What bothered me the most was how little sense of urgency there is to get things done,” he said, specifically noting the budget. “There’s a big disconnect between inside the beltway and the rest of the country.”
When pointed out that a lot of Indiana feels the same way about Indianapolis and 465, Stutzman notes “It’s worse. It is its own community. Its own economy. It’s sheltered.” That, he adds, is why there is a lack of urgency.
Stutzman, who has farmed in LaGrange County with his family throughout his life, has tried to keep that country lifestyle, living outside of the city and near Mt. Vernon, home of one his favorite U.S. presidents, George Washington. “Being out there is a good reminder of the principles he believed in,” Stutzman noted.
Despite the traffic and the general craziness of a large city, Stutzman and his family enjoy having visitors come out, giving them the chance to show them around D.C. and Mt. Vernon. “As a capital city, we can be very proud,” he said of Washington, D.C.
There is also diversity around where they live that he and his family have found to be a positive aspect of life away from Howe. “The community around us out there has immigrants and a lot of military families. There are a lot of different backgrounds,” he noted.
“But I’m not a city boy,” he said. “I like to mow my own grass. Get outside and work with my hands. People don’t do things themselves out there.”
Stutzman drives himself to the Capital, fighting the D.C. traffic that, he points out, means you calculate your driving in minutes, not miles.
And after the frustration of fighting traffic, there is usually more frustration at the work to be done at times.
“Here (Indiana) we find ways to get things done. I like to get things done. There, people love to stand around. Talk. At the end of the day, you can only talk so long. You have to go get the job done,” he said.
Again, he points to the sheltered culture around D.C. “Human nature is tought to change. People have been out there a long time and changing that is difficult,” he said. “They fall back to the status quo. There is a fear of the unknown that keeps them from making changes.”
The past year in Washington, D.C., has been one to remember, with the government shut down and battles over the health care act. Those fights, Stutzman noted, came down to the fact that one side of the aisle, the Republicans, weren’t involved with the law.
It needs to be about creating partisan relationships, he noted. “That’s the beauty of the two-party system. You have to have that push and pull. You have a better product if both sides are at the table,” Stutzman insisted.
That, he points out, is why there has been little debate on the budget that was passed shortly before the end of the year – both parties have things in the budget that they want to succeed.
Stutzman and his family, wife Christy and sons Payton and Preston, enjoy their time home in Indiana and are looking ahead to something that most politicians may dread – campaigning. “We enjoy campaigning,” Stutzman said. “It brings us back here more.”