This is the time of year when I tend to take a longer look at the list of lawmakers in Congress who are “not voting,” as some members of the House and Senate sometimes check out a little early before their terms are finished, while others are more than happy to stick around to the last vote, thoroughly enjoying their final moments on Capitol Hill.
“I have a job to do,” said Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), who did not run for re-election in November, but has been busily filling his final days with work before his term ends.
“I have a lot of loose ends here,” said the Florida Republican, who as chairman of the House Veterans Committee is still trying to get a package of veterans reforms through the Senate before lawmakers go home.
“I’m still hoping to shake it loose,” Miller said with a smile as we talked in the Speaker’s Lobby, just off the House floor.
If you get on Interstate 10 in Miller’s district, which stretches out to the Alabama line in the Panhandle of Florida, you could drive east to Jacksonville, where you would run into the district of Rep. Corrine Brown, a Florida Democrat who will leave Congress as well in a few weeks.
But Brown’s final days as a member of Congress could not be any more different than her colleague from the Sunshine State.
After losing her primary election in a bid for a 13th term, and facing a federal trial on corruption charges, Brown is ending her 24 year career in the House – not by being there for every vote like Miller – but by staying away from the halls of the U.S. Capitol entirely.
Brown returned to Capitol Hill for just two days of work after the November elections, voting in the House on November 14 and 15.
Since then, she has missed every single House vote.
One update – Brown did return for her final day as a House member, casting five final votes to end her career in Congress.
It was the first time she had been on the House floor for legislative work since mid-November, as while Brown has not been in D.C., she has been visible back in her home state, most recently last Sunday in Jacksonville, when she joined with supporters to raise money for her legal defense fund.
Emails to Brown’s spokesman in Congress asking about her absence from Capitol Hill have gone unanswered, and there has been little evidence of official activity by Brown since her election defeat.
Her Congressional web page has seemingly not been updated for months. Brown’s last Facebook post was just before her primary defeat in August, her last press release was posted in late June, her last House floor statement from May. Her official Twitter account has been deleted.
Think of people you went to school with, or someone you worked with – you’ve seen some of them go into a slump before leaving a job or school, while others furiously work their way to the final deadline day.
There have been no tributes from fellow lawmakers on the House floor for Brown, while Miller has been lauded by members of both parties for his efforts to reform the VA.
“It has been an honor to serve along beside him,” said Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN).
“He leaves behind the legacy of a statesman who has never compromised his principles or forgotten the people he was elected to serve.”
Miller told me he was enjoying his final days.
“I also enjoy the opportunity of saying goodbye,” as Miller recounted his arrival in Congress, just weeks after the Nine Eleven attacks, when the mood was very different.
“I will have some very fond memories of the successes we’ve had here, and some of the political fights we’ve had,” Miller added.
Brown meanwhile is taking dead aim at Washington.
“I was falsely accused by the Federal government,” Brown says on her new website about the corruption charges leveled against her.
Along with doing fundraisers for her legal bills, visitors to her website can buy shirts, bags, mugs and more with the message “#AcquitCorrine” on them.
Corrine Brown and Jeff Miller. Both on the House Veterans Committee. Both veteran members from Florida. Both leaving office at the end of the 114th Congress.
But both doing very different things as their careers in the Congress come to a close.