Four months in Congress have taught freshman Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, that most people have a mistaken idea of what House members do.
"People at home see a congressman out golfing, or see a schedule that Congress is only in session Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. They say, `Boy what a life. These guys really have it made,' " he said."Well we spend Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday working 14, 16 or 18 hours a day meeting with constituents and in hearings and drafting legislation.
"And I go home (to Utah) Thursday night, and I spend Friday, Saturday and Monday in 16- or 18-hour days in the district meeting with constituents dealing with their problems. I get Sundays off - and not all Sundays.
"So I am literally spending at least twice the amount of time I spent in my law practice - for less than half the money," he said. House members are paid $125,100 a year, and disclosure forms said Orton made $250,000 in 1989 as a tax lawyer.
But Orton said life in Congress has pretty much matched his expectations.
"I pretty much knew what I was getting into," he said - and not just because he had practiced law in Washington.
"I have been a C-SPAN junkie for years," he said about the cable TV channel that carries congressional debates. "I followed hearings in both the House and Senate on various issues.
"In fact, I have two VCRs in my house and I tape C-SPAN when I am not around and am able to watch it - and have for years. And when I get home, I watch the hearings."