Meet the Lawmaker Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), 22nd District

What are the best and worst things that you have found about Washington?

Rep. Olson: The best things are just the opportunity I have to serve the people who elected me to this office. When I’m back home, I tell people the minute I walk into that chamber, I look up and see that eagle, I look around and think about all the history and the incredible Americans that have been there. The minute that I’m not struck by that, that’s when it’s time to pull out the ID card and give them all my stuff and say, “I’ve got to go back home.”

The most disappointing thing has been the partisanship which we’ve operated in. The stimulus package — the largest spending bill in American history — and the members like me who aren’t on the committee had 15 hours to review it before we passed it, starting at midnight. That’s something the Founding Fathers, if they came back, they would be so upset with what they’re doing with the democracy that they created.

What’s the last book that you read?

Rep. Olson: I’m leafing through a book called Lone Star Nation. It’s about the history of Texas.

What did you want to be growing up?

Rep. Olson: I wanted to be an astronaut, if I could have been anything in the entire world. I grew up about a mile and a half from the Johnson Space Center and I was just enthralled with those people. You went to school with their kids; one of the shuttle pilots on the second space shuttle was my little league football coach, a guy named Joe Engle. That was what I wanted to do with my life, join the Navy as a pilot and pursue that pretty much as far as I could go.

If you could be any lawmaker besides yourself, who would you be?

Rep. Olson: I have tremendous respect for [former] Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), who I worked for on the House side for four years. I just think the senator was one of the giants of Congress at the time he was here. He was a man of principle, character; he stuck to his guns, he fought hard, but he achieved great things for our country.

What has been your most embarrassing political moment to date?

Rep. Olson: Probably a couple of weeks ago at a Fourth of July speech I gave at a football stadium. They had a makeshift stage and it had some big speakers up, and I just kind of got into it. I had the microphone and I was moving around, walking and talking, and I walked into one of the speakers. Luckily I caught it and it didn’t fall down, but it came that close to falling over the edge.

Who are your favorite Democratic members in the House?

Rep. Olson: The great thing about being a representative of the Johnson Space Center and NASA is that it is really a bipartisan organization. I’ve got great relationships with [Rep.] Gabby Giffords [D-Ariz.], who is the chairwoman of the [Science Space and Aeronautics] subcommittee. And in my freshman class, [Rep.] Parker Griffith [D-Ala.] and I talk greatly about NASA’s future, and [Rep.] Suzanne Kosmas [D-Fla.] as well. I’m still developing those relationships.

Which household chores do you like to do, and which do you skirt?

Rep. Olson: I love to get out in the yard. Unfortunately the job doesn’t allow me near as much time as I’d like. I love pushing that lawnmower. [As for chores I skirt,] if my wife says to do it, I’m going to do it.

What is the one thing about the way the House operates that you didn’t realize until you experienced it firsthand?

Rep. Olson: I didn’t realize how powerful the majority is. In the Senate the majority is a powerful entity, but over here, they rule. That was one of the mild surprises, just how powerful and how strong the majority is, and how little, at times, you can do as a minority to get your voice heard.

Miles Hilder