On many days last year, as other members of Congress huddled with colleagues, staff, lawyers and lobbyists trying to get this bill passed and that measure killed, Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.) had other things on his mind.
During the first half of the year, Parris plunged almost full time into his campaign for governor of Virginia, and after that fell through, he turned his attention to the parochial task of establishing a commuter rail system in Northern Virginia.
Parris spent most hours each day on the phone and in meetings, cajoling federal, state and local officials into funding the project, getting the blessings of railroad executives and union officials, examining equipment and sweet-talking local Democrats.
Parris, 56, said he has not missed a major vote during the last year, and he has gotten involved in a few legislative battles, such as the unsuccessful efforts to kill the tax overhaul bill last month. But for the most part, Parris, who is serving his third term in the House, left the legislative machinations of the budget, MX, chemical warfare, foreign aid and numerous other matters before Congress to his colleagues.
The reason, said Parris, is that he is a Republican.
As a member of the minority party in the House, it is frustrating to try to get things done when another calls the shots, Parris said.
"You can influence the direction of things, but you can't direct the results, and I have yet to have gotten satisfaction out of just being part of the process," said Parris, who is a member of the House Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee, the District of Columbia Committee and the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control.
Others see a different political tinge to his actions, claiming that he is laying the groundwork for another gubernatorial bid in four years. They point to the fact that he has recently taken on another issue traditionally outside of the purview of a member of Congress -- state road financing.
Parris recently held a news conference and traveled to Richmond for a meeting with Gov.-elect Gerald L. Baliles to urge the state to abandon its pay-as-you-go road building philosophy and allow the issuance of state road construction bonds.
Transportation is a major political issue in Virginia, particularly in Parris' 8th Congressional District, which includes Alexandria and parts of Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford counties. Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates have pledged in the past to alleviate the traffic congestion, but problems continue.
Parris acknowledged that he is thinking about running for governor again, but he insisted that this did not influence his actions. He said that after losing the bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination last year, "I came back here and took a new look at where I was going."
"Why am I here? What am I doing with this job and why?" he said. "The answer is, I am a guy who wants to make things happen, and maybe that's what intrigues me about the gubernatorial thing."
Parris said that the commuter rail project gave him an opportunity to make things happen. After protracted negotiations with federal transit officials, White House officials and Democrats in Virginia, Parris got a federal grant of more than $750,000 to start up the commuter rail project.
State and local officials agreed to pay the remaining costs. However, the project hit a snag when commuter rail supporters were unable to find liability insurance. Parris said he is optimistic that the General Assembly will settle the problem this winter during its 1986 session, although some members of the legislature are skeptical.
Despite the problems, Parris predicts that the commuter rail service will start this summer. Then he plans to turn his attention to changing the state road financing system. He said he is not ignoring national and international issues that members of Congress are supposed to deal with, but merely concentrating his energies where he can make things happen.
"I've been in the legislative process all my life, the only Republican on the [Fairfax County] Board of Supervisors, a minority in the state legislature, and now in the House," said Parris. "I've been in the minority all my life. If you can't influence the direction of things, then you ought to find something better to do."