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Source: United States House of Representatives – Alaska Congressman Don Young

Washington, D.C. – Alaska Congressman Don Young sat down with Professors Craig Volden (The University of Virginia) and Alan E. Wiseman (Vanderbilt University), Co-Directors of the Center for Effective Lawmaking, to discuss a wide range of topics, including his consistently high legislative effectiveness, institutional changes within Congress, and the ability for Congress to work together on a bipartisan basis. This Congress, the Center for Effective Lawmaking once again rated Congressman Don Young as the Most Effective Member of Congress.

“Legislative effectiveness” is defined by the Center for Effective Lawmaking as the “proven ability to advance a member’s agenda items through the legislative process and into law.” In the 115th Congress, Congressman Don Young authored six bills and numerous provisions in larger legislative packages – such as opening ANWR for energy development – that were ultimately signed into law by the President. Congressman Young’s legislative achievements are even more impressive, given that he did not hold a leadership position or committee Chairmanship during the 115th Congress. The Center for Effective Lawmaking notes that “relative to the average of 17 bills introduced by House lawmakers, Young put forth 62 pieces of legislation, 19 of which received some action in committee and 14 of which reached the floor.” His continued legislative success is a testament to his ability to build coalitions, work across party lines, and dogged determination to see Alaska’s priorities to the finish line.

Video of Congressman Young’s Interview with Professors Craig Volden and Alan E. Wiseman can be found here. A full transcript can be located here.

Excerpts from the interview:

On working in the minority and forging relationships with other Members of Congress:

Craig Volden:

Now, as Alan was mentioning in the beginning, you’ve done that when you’re in the minority party, when you’re in the majority party, junior member, senior member, and, and so on, committee chair, how do things change when you’re in those different positions, in terms of how you would go about lawmaking?

Rep. Young:

Well, you know, I don’t want to go too far ahead, but a lot has changed. I go back to my concept of being able to work. You know John Dingell was probably the most powerful chairman ever in the history of the Congress…but I knew him prior to me becoming a Congressman because he’s a hunter and fisherman. And he never thought I’d be a congressman, I didn’t think I was gonna be a congressman! But I got elected. And the first thing, I get a phone call from John, the Chairman, he says, ‘Don, this is Chairman Dingell.’ And I said, ‘Chairman it’s an honor…’ He says, “let’s go hunt.”…And so when I had a problem with Alaska, even though it wouldn’t be legislation to the free standing bill, I go to the Chairman and say, ‘you know, Mr. Chairman, this is what this does.’ It’s a bill, but I’m telling him what it does et cetera. And he look at it and – remember the staff wasn’t doing this it was him- and he’d say, ‘you know, Don, that’s a good idea. I’ll put it in the bill.’ And he put it in the bill and get it done. I don’t get credit for that, but the constituents’ problem was solved. And that’s because we had relationships. And that doesn’t exist today. That’s a big difference, big difference. And knowledge is good. I like to brag about the fact that I’m from the bush, but I also live in the city. And they recognize, I speak for Alaska. I don’t always win. But a lot of times I do.

Alan E. Wiseman:

I mean, that’s a really interesting point. You’re raising in terms of how you cultivate relationships with other members of Congress, especially on the other side of the aisle. I mean, I guess related to that, a question that we’ve often wondered about is how important you think it is for members of Congress to really align their legislative goals and portfolios with their district interests, which obviously you care about a lot as well as with the committee assignments? How important do you think it is for you to have been on committees that speak directly to Alaskan’s interests?

Rep. Young:

Well, I think the committees… you know, I was fortunate. I got to be put on the Merchant Marine Fisheries Committee, got put on the, at that time was called Interior Initial Affairs and I was on the Post Office Committee. Committees mean a lot. I wasn’t on Transportation but I was on the right committees. And again, the weakness, I know one of your questions, what happened at that time when I first came back to the John Dingells, the John Murphys, Mr. Witten, they ran the Congress .And I made an effort because I’m a single member to make sure I met all the chairmen. And they were interested cause I’m from Alaska . The chairmen ran the Congress. And that was the beauty of it and I loved it because the chairman would pick out an issue that was national across the board… And then we’d come to a committee decision…Now, when we’d go to markup, you could offer amendments in the committee, both sides. And we’d usually have an agreement between…and if his side introduced an amendment that hurt the bill, we voted down. If my side introduced one, we’d vote it down.

Click here for the full interview and transcript.

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