Freshman Rep. Jim Banks, 37, an Indiana Republican, talks about his wife taking over for him in the state Senate, his childhood, and making time for his three daughters.
Q: What has surprised you about being in Congress so far?
A: I served in the state legislature for six years and I somewhat expected that the legislative process would be similar. … It’s all together different. The rules, the process, the pace, the people, everything about Congress is different than my state legislative experience. So I would say that is my biggest surprise.
One good example of that is in the state legislature, we would call your bill to the floor, all of your colleagues would be seated. Even if they’re not paying attention, they’re there for the debate. I tell people at home when they’re watching C-SPAN and see me speaking with an entire chamber empty, that that’s because we’re in our committee meetings and meetings with constituents and other things that we’re doing.
Q: When you were deployed to Afghanistan in 2014, you were serving in the state Senate, and your wife temporarily took your seat. Tell me about that.
A: She had to run for the position.
The president of the state Senate, myself, and others, encouraged my wife to consider the opportunity. Initially, she rejected it because we have three daughters who are seven, five and four now — so at that point, they were five, three and one. So she had her hands full. She warmed up to the idea when our families and others rallied to offer to help with the girls. It was an incredible experience for her, and I’m told every day that she did a better job than I did. So there’s probably many that hope I’m deployed as a congressman so she can replace me here as well.
Q: How is it being so far away from your daughters so far?
A: It’s difficult. I just got [drawings] in the mail. My seven-year-old, she’s in first grade, and they just studied [about] the nation’s capital. It was unique for her. She was here for my swearing-in. I hope my daughters grow up with the sense that they were part of something — the unique adventure of public service — and have a sense of what that means. But it is the most challenging part of the job and they’re in a very special age and I don’t want to miss out on that. Yet I’m here a lot more than I am there. So we do a lot of Facetime, a lot of phone calls and on the weekends, I fly home and try to protect as much time with them as I can.