Originally Published: April 13, 2011 9:58 p.m.
Patients don't talk much when they're in dental chairs, so Flagstaff dentist Paul Gosar is hearing a lot more opinions since he became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives 100 days ago Thursday.
Gosar offered some insight on the differences between his old job and new job Wednesday, in between a flurry of meetings and hearings.
As early as Thursday, he'll be voting on the permanent continuing resolution that would keep the U.S. government operating through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. He said as long as there are no changes overnight, he plans to vote yes.
The CR features $38 billion in cuts in the current year's budget of $3.8 trillion, including $414 million in cuts to grants for state and local police departments, a $400 million cut to renewable energy programs, $600 million in cuts for community health centers and a $1 billion cut in EPA grants for local clean water and drinking water projects.
Tea Party conservatives like Gosar, who brought a Republican majority to the House, were the main force behind the cuts.
"We need to cut up our credit cards... and live like mainstream America," Gosar said.
Thursday, the House already is scheduled to vote on a proposed budget for the next fiscal year, a proposal largely crafted by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Like many other House Republicans, Gosar is mum on how he will vote on the plan. He said he still is reading the proposal.
The Ryan budget plan - which would privatize Medicare and turn Medicaid over to the states - has no chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Within a month, Congress will have to vote on another controversial budget-related item: whether to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling or default on the country's loans.
Gosar said he wants to see some budget benchmarks and deadlines before voting to raise the debt ceiling. For example, as a House Government Reform Committee member, he wants federal agencies to explain how they are going to change the way they do business.
While his constituents across the vast rural 1st Congressional District haven't been telling him in unison what budget proposals they like, they do have one thing in common, Gosar said.
"The biggest thing they said is, 'Cut spending and get America back to work,'" Gosar related.
Does he worry they'll change their minds about cuts if those cuts trim their favorite programs?
"Some people already say that, but we're broke," Gosar responds.
Dentist to Congress
Since switching from a dentist to a Congressman, Gosar has had to verse himself on a lot more diverse issues, although he did serve on a dental association committee on government affairs before running for Congress.
He's learned some things he didn't even realize he needed to learn.
"This place works at its own speed," he said. "So you learn to be patient."
Congress is full of a lot of alpha males and females, and they're very competitive, he added.
It's a little harder to get around in D.C. than Flagstaff, especially in the Rayburn House Office Building where Gosar attends numerous House committee meetings.
"I don't think I'll ever like the Rayburn Building," he said. Sometimes he swears he sees crumbs left behind by people who are trying to mark their trail so they can find their way back. The building is shaped like a huge four-story "H" with two basements and a square in the middle, so it has a lot of dead ends.
Just three days after Gosar and other freshmen took office Jan. 5, a gunman shot U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson. So Gosar's first days in office were relatively somber.
But when things took off, they took off. Gosar said he typically works from about 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. when Congress is in session 4-5 days per week, three weeks a month, with breaks for meals and a workout. He spends a lot of time reading bills between meetings.
"You run non-stop, and so does your staff," Gosar said. "Information keeps coming at you right and left."
He's always looking forward to coming home to Arizona's sunshine and low humidity.