Congress may have low approval ratings, with the latest Gallup poll showing just 18 percent of the public thinks the House and Senate are doing a good job.
Despite the public anger toward Congress, many members work their hearts out for their constituents and the public.
Newsmax’s editorial team interviewed dozens of people who know the House of Representatives really well. They included members of Congress, former members of Congress, congressional staffers, reporters, lobbyists, lawyers, and others. Importantly, we checked with constituents across the nation, asking their views on individual members of Congress.
Our survey was not scientific, but was based on solid criteria, including a House member’s commitment to their job, their interest in constituent services and follow-up, their championing of issues and causes important to the national interest, their honesty, and their ability to get things done.
Our survey did not include ideological litmus tests, and it comprises a bipartisan roll call of the House’s greatest. We looked at each member’s concern and passion for the public good.
Here is our 2016 list of the 25 Hardest Working Members of Congress:
1. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) — At 66 and after 16 years in the House, Cole maintains the same pace as the young campaigner who served as secretary of state of Oklahoma and chief of staff of the Republican National Committee. He now serves as deputy majority whip, as well as a member of the Appropriations, Budget, and Rules Committees. Capitol Hill reporters still marvel at how Cole replies unfailing to their requests, whether it is at midnight or on weekends.
2. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) — Despite careers as a lawyer, state representative and senator, and U.S. Representative, Lynch’s drive and seemingly unstoppable energy, friends agree, comes from his days as an ironworker. Working on high-altitude structures by day and attending the Wentworth Institute of Technology by nights and weekends, Lynch rose to become the youngest (30) president of the Iron Workers Local 7 union in Boston. In politics, he has been nothing short of a force of nature: unseating an incumbent in the Democratic primary to win his first term as state representative in 1994. At 61 and now a senior member of the Financial Services and Oversight and Government Reform Committees, Lynch shows no signs of slowing down as a passionate advocate for the little guy.
3. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — No argument here: Ryan’s early-morning workout was highly dramatized when he was the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2012 (one BBC reporter actually did the “Ryan routine” while broadcasting from Ryan’s hometown) and his morning to midnight schedule on weekdays is well-known by colleagues of both parties. Genuinely drafted to be speaker after John Boehner’s resignation last year, Ryan, has an unparalleled passion for public policy, but he still faithfully returns to his wife and three children in Wisconsin every weekend.
4. Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) — Former San Diego city councilman and California state legislator Vargas works overtime, Hill staffers say, to maintain close ties to the Obama White House (he and the president were Harvard Law classmates) and to work with Republican colleagues. Vargas recently co-sponsored legislation with Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) to benefit wounded warriors and is co-chairman of the Congressional Prayer Breakfast with Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.).
5. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) — On Capitol Hill, the joke is that "it's not what cause will Peter King take up next, but what cause hasn't he taken up yet?" At 72 and after 24 years in Congress, the Nassau County lawmaker embraces controversial causes that many lawmakers would rather ignore or don’t see much bang for the political buck. King, past chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and has become the key Capitol Hill player in keeping America vigilant in its the war on terror. King serves as an active watchdog of the banking industry as a Member of the House Financial Services Committee.
6. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) — The three-term lawmaker’s capacity for hard work was hailed at the recent National Republican Congressional Committee dinner. A U.S. Air Force veteran of Iraq, he worked overtime in 2014 to secure congressional approval for an airstrike against Syrian strongman Assad — only to have the White House back off. His is a rising leadership star in the GOP.
7. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) — The “other half” of the Democrats’ celebrated “Castro brothers,” Joaquin is the identical twin brother of Housing Secretary and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. Moving with ease from state House to U.S. House, Joaquin is considered a prodigious worker on the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committee.
8. Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) — Professional auditor and former Maricopa County Treasurer, Schweikert is considered one of GOP’s best budget authorities. His mastery of detail and understanding of the budget process have made him “the indispensable man” for small government conservatives in House.
9. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) — One of the first female combat veterans to serve in Congress, Gabbard is admired on both sides of the aisle for her personal drive — elected to the Hawaii legislature at 21, deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Army at 25, elected to the Honolulu City Council at 30, and Congress at 31. Sandwiching her congressional duties with those as a military police officer in the Army National Guard, Gabbard was a vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee until resigning this year to back Bernie Sanders for president.
10. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) — At 36, former Miami public relations man Curbelo is fast becoming known as a hard-charging lawmaker in his first term. On the same day that the White House announced plans to lift Cuba’s designation as a terrorist nation, Curbelo became a highly visible opponent to the plan. A favorite of the “Tea Party” in his campaign, Curbelo nonetheless drew swatches of publicity for vowing never to vote against lifting the debt ceiling and declaring “America must never, ever default.”
11. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) — Even before he got to Congress, onetime Yale baseball team captain and U.S. Navy veteran DeSantis demonstrated what associates call near-superhuman capacity for work. As a first-time candidate in 2012, he raised more than $1.1 million — almost all by his telephoning and asking people — and beat five other Republicans in the primary. A Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he has been a House point man on issues ranging from taking a harder line with Putin’s Russia to trying to thwart the Iran agreement.
12. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) — Onetime saleswoman and Republican activist Blackburn caught conservative eyes as a state legislator in 2000. That’s when she broke with fellow Republican and then-Gov. Don Sundquist over his effort to bring a state income tax to Tennessee. Having forged a hard-charging band of conservative followers, Blackburn made history in ’02 by becoming the first woman elected to Congress from Tennessee who did not follow her husband. These days, one only has to name a conservative cause to find the lady from the Volunteer State at the forefront of it — opposing climate change, investigating Planned Parenthood, and leading the charge against net neutrality.
13. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) — The tenacity of Patrick Murphy became evident to those who covered him in 2012, when the first-time candidate unseated Republican firebrand Rep. Allen West in a major upset. Murphy spent $3 million to West’s $12 million and pulled off a win. Now 33, self-styled “Bill Clinton Democrat” Murphy occasionally surprises the liberal-leaning House leadership of his party with stands such as those in favor of the Keystone Pipeline and against tighter regulations on for-profit-universities. As a candidate for the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, Murphy is now leading fellow Rep. Alan Grayson for the Democratic nomination and has the rare pre-primary endorsement of Barack Obama.
14. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) — Puerto Rican born immigration lawyer and three-term Rep. Labrador is considered the House GOP's best point man on legislation on the issue of illegal immigration. He also helped organize the monthly "Conversations With Conservatives" meetings in which he and other right-of-center colleagues talk freely with reporters. With all this activity, Labrador still maintains the Monday to Thursday commute from Washington to his Boise district.
15. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) — Indiana's former secretary of state and father of its voter identification law, Rokita wrapped up key support for Congress in 2010 within 48 hours of the nine-term incumbent's retirement announcement. These days, Rep. Rokita stays busy as vice chairman of the House Budget Committee and as the GOP's premier spokesman in Congress on voter identification measures.
16. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) — He is one of his party’s most high-profile voices on illegal immigration and, from Pat Buchanan in 1996 to Ted Cruz this year, he is almost always a player in someone’s presidential campaign in his state’s quadrennial GOP caucuses. But since he came to Congress in 2002, King has had relatively comfortable re-elections. This is due, congressional staffers say, to his vigorous tours of his district nearly every weekend and his service on the House Agriculture Committee.
17. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) — The former teacher and state Capitol staffer got elected to both the New York City Council and later the U.S. House by taking out seemingly unbeatable incumbents. Now 70, and after 24 years in Washington, Maloney, according to the New York Daily News in 2014, “proposed more legislation than any other House Member.” Her list of legislation ranges from a measure to provide compensation to Ground Zero workers who have fallen ill and to creating a database for monitoring of all federal contracts (which passed following exposes of corruption among military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Maloney also found time to be a leader outside Congress on diseases that threaten the elderly, serving on foundation boards that seek cures for both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
18. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) — Bald, blunt-spoken Brady suddenly became a subject of the national media last fall, when colleague Paul Ryan moved up to the speakership of the House. Almost overnight, 10-termer Brady became his successor as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. Had Brady faced a challenge, few congressional correspondents doubted the Texan would emerge with the gavel. He had been key point man for President George W. Bush on passage of the Central America Free Trade Agreement and wrote a “sunset” proposal to require every federal program not written in the Constitution to justify its existence in 12 years or face elimination. Most recently, Brady, 60, gave his blessings to a measure favored by anti-tax activists to sunset the U.S. Tax Code.
19. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) — The best proof of Scalise’s tireless knowledge and cultivation of his Republican colleagues as House GOP Whip came last year when several press outlets quoted remarks he allegedly made years before saying he was akin to Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke “without the baggage.” There were widespread press calls for his resignation from the No. 2 position in the House GOP hierarchy but, to remember, Republican colleagues (and fellow Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat and black) rallied to Scalise’s side. In part, it was a tribute to his reputation as someone who knows the needs of his colleagues and serves them.
20. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) — In 2002, state legislator Van Hollen caught the eye of Democrats and the national press by winning the all-important Democratic primary in Maryland's 8th District (suburban Washington) over Tim Shriver, son of Sargent and nephew of John, Robert, and Ted Kennedy. Since then, his career has been nothing short of meteoric — rising to become chairman of the Democratic Congressional Committee and then Budget Committee chairman in six years. Van Hollen is now considered the favorite to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski this year.
21. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) — In contrast to her husband and predecessor John Dingell (who served a record 60 years in the seat until retiring in ’14), freshman Rep. Debbie is back in the Dearborn-based district almost every Thursday to Monday. But she also wears the hats of Washington insider as a member of the Democratic National Committee and a top fundraiser for charities and fellow Democrats.
22. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) — As far back as 1978, Chris Smith’s capacity for taking on Herculean labor was sensed. Having just reached the constitutionally required age for the U.S. House (25), sporting goods salesman Smith took on powerful House Administration Committee Chairman Frank Thompson (D-N.J.) in a hopeless race. But a memo from the National Congressional Campaign Committee hailed him as one of the hardest-working candidates anywhere. Two years later, however, Smith unseated Thompson and today he is still in Congress — one of two of the GOP’s 55 “Reagan babies” elected to the House with the 40th president and still serving. As passionate as always about the pro-life cause, senior House Foreign Affairs Committee Member Smith also devotes his considerable energy to battling persecution of Christians in the Middle East and slave trafficking worldwide.
23. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) — "I saw Fred Upton's high energy level first-hand in 1981," recalled TV commentator Larry Kudlow, referring to the days when he was deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget under Ronald Reagan and the young Upton was an aide to then-Director David Stockman. During the fight over Reagan's historic tax and budget cuts of 1981, said Kudlow, "when email wasn't invented, Fred would go night and day running confidential messages to key Members of Congress. And we won." Five years later, Upton became one of the handful of House Members who got to Congress by defeating a member of his own party. Now finishing the sixth and last year of his "termed out" stint as House Energy Committee chairman, Upton, at 63, shows no signs of slowing down and has signaled he will remain in Congress after relinquishing his chairman's gavel.
24. Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) — When then-state legislator Mulvaney upset 28-year Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.) in 2010, the national press was astonished. Not so were reporters in South Carolina who had seen his drive and his flair for attention-getting issues at the State Capitol. Now 47, Mulvaney has freely voted against John Boehner for speaker, opposed lifting the debt ceiling to fund the government, and rallied fellow Tea Party lawmakers — all the while coming home to the Palmetto State’s 5th District every weekend and winning re-election with ease.
25. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) — “You’re probably asking yourself how a black dude wins in a district that is 71 percent Hispanic, right?” freshman Rep. Will Hurd told Newsmax last year. One of the big upset winners of 2012, former CIA agent Hurd explained that he went “out to go to all 29 counties in the district and engaged with people." It worked, and he won. Maintaining the same discipline as a Homeland Security Committee member, Hurd is widely sought out on intelligence-related issues because, in his words, “I chased al-Qaida for much of my life.”
This won't take too long.
This won't take too long.
Hardest working congressmen? Doing twice nothing is still nothing.
Perhaps that wasn't entirely fair. Perhaps this group does more than the average congressman, but it is still insufficient. And regardless of how much they are doing, it is also a matter of WHAT they are doing. No matter how much they do, they are doing it all wrong.
You know as well as I do that this system is evil and corrupt. Even if you are a good person, if you work for evil then you are doing evil.
'Nuff said - for now!