The Daily Item - U.S. Rep. Tom Marino - A life in office

News Article

By:  Tom Marino
Date: June 26, 2011
Location: Washington, DC

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

Tom Marino's office looks strangely like his apartment.

Because it is.

That's right, the freshman U.S. representative lives in the same quarters from which he conducts business related to Pennsylvania's 10th District. And the nation. And the world.

"I stay here because I work very late some nights," said Marino, a Cogan Station Republican who stays in Washington at least four days a week. "I am really here just all the time. I wanted to be close to work and this is the way to do it."

His work space/living space, in the Cannon Building, about a mile from the Capitol, is all of 10 feet by 30 feet. Inside are a flat-screen computer, flat-screen 32-inch TV, a few chairs, a sofa and the air mattress that he inflates each night.

Click here to watch a slideshow by Daily Item staff photographer Matthew Harris.

An outer office -- where you might find any of his eight employees gathering -- has a microwave.

His walls are adorned with a single photograph, his law degree, a mirror and a huge map of the world.

This is Tom Marino's world, one he earned by beating two-term incumbent Chris Carney, a Dimock Democrat, in 2010.

But his decision to live in his office, and not allow rent to whittle away at his $174,000 salary, comes with a price.

While he does have a place to hang his hat -- or, more precisely for Marino, kick off the cowboy boots he wears with his suit and suspenders -- his quarters do not have a shower.

Marino rolls off his air mattress each morning at 5.

"I get up and go to the gym," the 58-year-old former federal prosecutor said. "I spend a few days a week running and then a few lifting weights."

Marino doesn't have to travel far to reach the workout center.

"The gym I go to is for Congress members," he said. "It's right here and all I have to do is wake up and walk downstairs."

Marino exercises at the gym for about an hour before getting ready for his daily routine.

"I have him booked up from 7 a.m. until about 11 p.m.," said Drew Kent, Marino legislative director. "He is always on the go meeting with constituents, committee meetings and voting. Sometimes he won't even take a break to eat."

Which -- other than the lack of a kitchen in his apartment -- is probably why Marino has lost more than 20 pounds since January, when he was sworn in.

"I just don't find the time," he said. "I'm down here for a reason and I want to wake up and do the best job I could for the district."

His schedule is such that "I really don't see daylight," he said. "I am in room after room and back to the office, so I see some out the window, but for the most part, I really don't go outside."

Marino's office is just under a mile away from the Capitol. He travels there via a private underground walkway -- adorned with art submitted from, among others, school children from around the country -- that is linked to his office building.

Trolley-like tram cars that hold about a dozen VIPsrollby.

Marino doesn't hop on.

"I keep moving," he said. "I don't take it because as I walk I keep getting briefed on what is going on for the day."

At the end of his drive from Cogan Station to Washington -- a 210-mile drive that takes 4½ hours without traffic -- he sees the dome on the skyline of the nation's capital.

It's an overwhelming feeling, he said.

Inside the Capitol you might catch him staring upward, at the dome of the inside Rotunda.

"As I am walking through here, I stop and look up and realize that great statesmen walked here before me," he said.

But there's not much time to ponder the past.

Marino, who sits on the House Judiciary, Homeland Security and the Foreign Affairs committees, had five meetings before noon on Thursday.

"These are very important because I like to know exactly what is going on at all times," Marino said. "Each meeting is important."

As Marino spoke, he walked rapidly down the hall of the Capitol, relaying that the Joint Subcommittee hearing for the Homeland Security Committee meeting was important because it was a voting meeting.

"I need to be there to hear all sides," Marino said. "I take every point that each member of the committee says very seriously."

From day one, when Marino decided to throw his name into the mix to run for Congress, he said it wasn't about politics -- it was about doing the right thing.

No sooner had he gotten his foot in the door than he stepped through the wrong one leading to the House floor.

"Republicans and Democrats enter the floor from their respective sides for some reason," Marino said.

"I remember I went through the Democrat side and they kind of stopped and looked at me like I was crazy."

That, Marino said, is one of the things about Washington he doesn't like.

"The bipartisan politics," he said. "It doesn't make sense."

Another peeve?

"During a committee meeting I was listening to a Democrat member make a valid point about an issue," he said. "I asked if we could table it for now and discuss it in the future and they said no. It came to a vote and I had to vote no, so the amendment was gone for good. Those are the things that bother me."

Marino said he isn't always in a good mood doing the job he loves.

"I get cranky from time to time," Marino said. "But when I do my staffers will put ice cream on my desk because they know it is my weakness."

About seven hours into his day Thursday, Marino had several more meetings to attend and said he would be working until well past 11 p.m.

Then back to his apartment. Kick off the cowboy boots. Collapse on the air mattress.

Back to the gym first thing in the morning, where he will grab that shower.

"I love it though," he said.

On weekends, another 210-mile trip back to Cogan Station.

A real bed. His own shower.

"I always tell my wife, Edith, that if she looks over and sees me smiling in my sleep to please not wake me because there is a reason for the smile.

"I'm a congressman."

SLIDESHOW: http://www.dailyitem.org/wash