Fantasizing Congress

Democracy in action
By MIKE MILIARD  |  January 3, 2007


With football in playoff mode and spring training two months away, participants in any of the Web’s innumerable fantasy sports leagues may see this winter as a fallow period, a time when they could get rusty. Lucky for them, the 110th Congress convenes on January 4.

Sure, playing fantasy sports might be a great way to turn statistical acumen into cold, hard cash. But Fantasy Congress, a project unveiled this fall by four Claremont McKenna College students, will allow you to keep your mind sharp by number-crunching quorums, caucuses, earmarks, and filibusters.

It’s easy! Just create an account, join or create a league (sorry, “Massholes for Justice,” “Mark Foley Fan Club,” and “McCarthyism R Us” are already taken) and set to drafting a delegation of real-life Capitol Hill hotshots. The better numbers they put up — i.e., the better their skill at glad-handing and backslapping and backroom negotiation, thus furthering their bills along the tortuous journey toward the president’s desk — the more points you’ll rack up.

Members of Congress earn points as they push their wannabe laws through the bicameral legislature, from introduction of a bill in the House or Senate chamber (five points), to committee and floor votes (five to 25 points, depending), all the way up to the Oval Office and the president’s coveted John Hancock (50 points). Various procedural vagaries and real-life factors also affect point totals.

Pick 16 members of your fantasy team: two senior senators, two junior senators, four senior representatives, four representatives with between three and five years experience, and a “supporting lineup” of four rookie reps. Read the news or check to see how they’re doing from week to week. Has John Kerry been missing a few too many floor votes? Is Representative John Doolittle living up to his name? On weekends, move loafing legislators out of your active lineup as you strategize for the upcoming session.

Point totals for the 109th Congress were telling. Republicans (perhaps unsurprisingly, given the majorities they enjoyed) were the highest scorers in the Senate, with the lamented Rick Santorum (1645 points) right up there in the top five. (Senators Kennedy and Kerry were the definition of mediocrity, wallowing in the middle of the pack, with 871 and 740 points, respectively.) In the House, where points are a bit harder to come by, Ed Markey is the Bay State’s highest scorer (347) followed by Barney Frank and Stephen Lynch. (Mark Foley, Bob Ney, and Tom DeLay racked up decent early numbers, but alas, their promise went tragically unfulfilled.)

As with fantasy sports, will a sort of Fantasy Congress punditocracy emerge, where plugged-in columnists will tell you to dump John Olver or stock up on Susan Collins? Hard to tell. All I know is that my “fantasy Congress” is one that, uh, gets stuff done and stands up to the executive branch.

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  Topics: This Just In , Sports, John Kerry, Ed Markey,  More more >
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