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Texans participate in ‘Citizen Congress’

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Submitted photo: Participants enjoyed their roles of congress members this weekend at the “Citizen Congress” held in Arlington. Submitted photo: Participants enjoyed their roles of congress members this weekend at the “Citizen Congress” held in Arlington.

Submitted by Jean Brown

People from all over North and Central Texas participated in a “Citizen Congress” Friday, June 17 - Saturday, June 18 and after hours of committee hearings and debate on the House floor – they passed a federal budget.

The event was put on by Congressman Joe Barton, who called it “one of the most interesting and exciting events” he has ever held. 

He invited people from his district to play the roles of real members of Congress.

They participated in committee hearings, closed door caucus meetings and eventually heated discussion on the House floor.

WBAP radio’s Mark Davis, host of the area’s most popular talk radio show, filled the role of House Speaker John Boehner. 

Even though he talks to people every day about politics, he said he learned a lot about the process.

“Everybody who participated got a good idea of how power is wielded - from the committee process, the rule process and even on the House floor,” said Davis. 

“We got a first class lesson in the difference between sitting around and having a good idea over coffee and how to get those ideas turned into law.”

Participants were asked to forgo their own beliefs for the day and behave as the Member of Congress they were playing. 

Many said it gave them a whole new insight into the process and into the thought process of those on the other side.

“I would like to thank Joe Barton and his staff for hosting the Mock Congress event this weekend. It was interesting to get a glimpse into what it is like being on the other end of the voting process. 

“Of course, it isn’t as easy as it looks,” said Lori Paige Penner, an Ovilla resident.

She played the role of tea party favorite and newly announce Presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann.

“The Democrats and the Republicans were very cordial to each other for the most part. I was very impressed by how well everybody played together and how seriously everyone took their role.

“I think I saw a few future Congressmen/Women in the making. 

“I personally was sad to take off my Michele Bachmann sign and have to stop campaigning for President. I was just really starting to get into it,” said Penner.

Like in the real Congress Republicans held a majority of the seats and therefore won most of the votes. 

In the end the “Citizen Congress” voted to defund ObamaCare, showed support for a Fair Tax and ultimately passed the GOP’s budget – dubbed “The Path to Prosperity.”

“The result at the end of the day was very close to what the real Congress did. People started to realize that significantly cutting the budget is tough because so much of the spending is entitlements,” said Rep. Barton. 

“In the budget process you really can’t directly impact the entitlement programs; you can only cut the discretionary programs. 

“Participants realized at the exercise went on that all the stuff they wanted to cut – cut the foreign aid, wasteful programs – it’s not a big part of the budget. 

“You got to get into the real nitty, gritty and look at programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security if you want to have real budget reform.”

More than 130 people debated the budget for close to 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday. Rep. Barton last held a Citizen Congress like this in 1995, but because this exercise was so successful he is considering making it a regular event.


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