They are -- starting with the most senior in the congressional pecking order -- a former ironworker from Massachusetts with a family chock-full of U.S. Postal Service employees, a lawyer from Baltimore with a penchant for pinstriped suits and a family tradition of public service, and a jocular management and foreign affairs expert from Virginia who worked his way up from president of his local citizens association to a seat in the House. Though they followed very different paths to Capitol Hill, Reps. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass.; John Sarbanes, D-Md.; and Gerry Connolly, D-Va.; are working together and in parallel on a range of issues that matter to the federal workforce.
They have held hearings on telework, workplace diversity, work-life balance and technology; written legislation aimed at making the federal government a more competitive employer; and extolled the nobility of public service. And they are making the case that federal employees need more resources as they tackle additional responsibilities related to the financial crisis and face the prospect of a large government role in health care and environmental reforms.
The new presidential administration and Democratic majority in Congress have given the three a perch from which to push their federal employee-friendly agenda. Lynch became chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce in January, after Rep. Danny K. Davis, D-Ill., was assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee. Sarbanes has been agitating for telework reform since arriving in the House in 2007, only to see the issue-and his profile on workforce initiatives-elevated by the Obama administration. And as president of the freshman class of lawmakers and a member of Lynch's subcommittee, Connolly, elected in 2008 to fill the seat vacated when Republican Tom Davis retired, finally has an opportunity to pursue issues he worked on at the local level in Northern Virginia for almost two decades.
"I didn't come here to do the trivial," Connolly says. "I came here to continue a long tradition of activist legislating. I was a real bottom-line, can-do chairman of one of the biggest counties in the country, and I bring that work ethos here. I want to get things done."
That goes for all three.
In the Aug. 1 issue of Government Executive, Alyssa Rosenberg examines the changing roles these lawmakers are playing. Click here to read the full story.