WASHINGTON -- The mild-mannered, middle-aged man with the ever-present Blackberry that he peers at through metal-rimmed glasses boarded his usual 6:30 a.m. flight from Dallas-Fort Worth airport to Washington Oct. 28th.
It’s what U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, does every Monday when Congress is in session, after driving his Toyota Prius from his nearby home to the airport.
This week, however, wasn’t exactly routine. Burgess was looking at a short, but intense three-day week on Capitol Hill that centered on his signature issue: health care.
A 62-year-old physician who had an ob/gyn practice for over 25 years in North Texas, Burgess had to prepare himself for a marquee hearing Wednesday when Republicans finally had a chance to grill Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about the disastrous launch of the Obamacare website.
From the moment he headed to his suite of offices in the Rayburn House Office Building to the time he left Wednesday afternoon, there was no stopping Burgess.
The physician legislator is an Energizer Bunny, busier than many members, with two A-list committees. He’s often racing from the House Energy and Commerce Committee in Rayburn, with jurisdiction over everything from energy production to health care to the environment, to the House Rules Committee in the U.S. Capitol building across the street. The panel is the procedural hub of the House, where members review every bill headed to the floor for a vote.
It’s not a pace for the faint-hearted. In Congress 10 years longer than Burgess, Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, said that he admires his colleague’s stamina.
“To be on Rules, it’s almost like (being) a glutton for punishment,” Green said.
But Burgess, who lives in his office to save money – making it easier to get to early meetings – revels in the fast pace.
“Doctors get up early,” he said with a grin early Tuesday morning during an interview, showing no signs that he had spent the night sleeping on a cot in his office.
The office décor includes lots of black and white photographs from Denton County in the first part of the 20th century. There’s also a plaque in the reception area from the Southlake Department of Public Safety for having saved a man’s life during a town meeting in 2004 – a little known feat that Burgess doesn’t make a big deal about.
This is the year that the six-term congressman has become more visible, in demand as a talking head about Obamacare on cable TV and more prominent in the House Republican Conference. But, self-effacing, he likes to describe himself as a backbencher.
“He’s a low-key guy,” said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, a long-time friend who takes credit for putting him on Energy and Commerce when Barton served as chairman. “Some like to toot their own horn. He’s the opposite of that.”
Burgess represents the 26th congressional district concentrated in Denton County, just north of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, a suburban area that is predominately white and Republican, and which voted for 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney by more than 60 percent.
His wife, Laura, is an architect and designed their home. They have three grown children and two grandchildren.
Burgess was tapped to be on Rules this year. It was a rare opportunity to serve on two major committees and came from another fellow Texas Republican, Rep. Pete Sessions, the committee chairman, with the approval of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.