As he prepared to leave Washington for the last time as a congressman, retiring Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, compared his feelings about his eight years in the House to those of a mother with eight children.
"She wouldn't trade any of them for $1 million, but she wouldn't give a nickel for another one," he said.In fact, Nielson said he would not have run for another term even if he had known beforehand that a Democrat would replace him - Rep.-elect Bill Orton, D-Utah.
"It wouldn't have made any difference. I had no desire for another term. It's not that I felt I wasn't doing a good job, I was . . .. But I don't think Congress should be a lifetime job. I'm 66 years old and it's time to do other things in life. I'm content."
Nielson mused while sitting amid stacks of packed boxes in his office on Tuesday. He was preparing to drive out of Washington with a fully loaded car early Thursday to travel back to Utah.
He and his wife will enter the LDS Church's Missionary Training Center in Provo on Feb. 6 to begin a mission to Sydney, Australia. He doesn't plan to return to Washington again before his term expires on Jan. 3.
But Nielson took one parting shot at what is good and bad about Congress, what he will miss and what he will not.
"I won't miss the inefficiency. Congress is slow getting started every year. It wastes the first six to eight weeks after it convenes. Most state legislatures meet and finish their business by the time it takes us to get going," Nielson said.
"The extreme partisanship - I won't miss that either. I had come from a state legislature that was pretty non-partisan. In my career there, I was in the majority party three times and in the minority once. But I was able to accomplish as much in the minority. It doesn't work that way in Congress."
He added, "Even if you come up with a good bill, the committee chairman will take it and claim it as his own."
He also said House and Senate rules often force duplicative hearings and allow conferences that are supposed to work out differences between House- and Senate-passed bills to take actions never envisioned in original bills.
For example, he said, a state legislature seeking a compromise on bills proposing $100 million or $120 million for a program might "draw the line in the middle with $110 million. But in Congress they would end up with $140 million.
"That's because they take the good in both bills, add them together and come up with a more expensive bill."
But Nielson also found much in Congress to be satisfying, and he will miss that.
"I'll miss my associations with people from all over the nation," he said. He adds that 95 percent of the people in Congress are of the highest quality.
"Even though people might not believe it, they are upright, honest people who do their best to represent their districts. But there are a few who have associations that aren't the most proper, and a few people who are overly negative and can't say anything good about anyone or anybody," he said.
He also enjoyed being in the middle of making policy - such as being a key player in last year's new Clean Air Act as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and being around important people - his office even once belonged to Lyndon B. Johnson.
"It's been a privilege to be here, and I've thoroughly enjoyed it," he said. "But it's time to move on."