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Michigan Congressman Gets Only Seven Weeks in Office

Seven-Week Congressman Arrives in Time for Fiscal Cliff Debate
Union representative David Curson. Source: Dave Curson For Congress

David Curson, a union representative who helped broker parts of the U.S. government’s $79.7 billion rescue of the auto industry, is joining Congress for just seven weeks -- time enough to cast a few dozen votes, maybe weigh in on the fiscal cliff and then go home to Michigan.

He and two others elected to fill unexpired terms are to be sworn in today, and a fourth is to take his seat later this week. Curson is the only one of the four who didn’t also win a full two-year term, so he’s the sole temporary congressman in the bunch.

The Michigan Democrat will complete the term of Republican Thaddeus McCotter, who resigned in July amid allegations of ballot-signature fraud.

“I won’t be a great debater,” Curson said in a telephone interview. “But the real negotiations happen in hallway conversations and meeting rooms.”

“Hopefully, I’ll be a part of stopping this country from going off the fiscal cliff,” he said.

The fiscal cliff refers to a $607 billion combination of automatic spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to take effect starting early next year. Whether the cliff is averted or implemented, it’s probably going to spur the largest change in U.S. tax policy in more than a decade.

New Members

Suzan DelBene, a former Microsoft Corp. executive and a Democrat from Washington state, was elected to finish out the term of Jay Inslee, a Democrat who resigned in March to run for governor. She also is to be sworn in today, along with Thomas Massie, who was chosen to succeed fellow Kentucky Republican Geoff Davis, who stepped down in July.

The final swearing-in of the week will be for special-election winner Donald Payne Jr., a New Jersey Democrat who will take the Newark-based seat held by his father, Donald Payne, for more than two decades until his death in March.

Curson’s status as a short-timer is rare, though not unprecedented, said Loren Duggan, chief congressional analyst for Bloomberg Government. In 2006, Texas Republican Shelley Sekula-Gibbs was elected to fill the seat vacated when former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay resigned. She lost as a write-in candidate for the full term to Democrat Nick Lampson.

Union Representative

Curson is a barrel-chested, white-bearded ex-Marine who served in Vietnam and then apprenticed at Ford Motor Co.’s Rawsonville plant. He became a UAW representative, and said he has held various jobs in the union for the last 39 years -- including helping to broker some of the labor deals with General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC as part of the government’s bailout of the auto industry.

He decided to run for office after two Democrats who had originally filed to run against McCotter in Michigan’s most Republican district decided not to contest the special election.

So now, after a series of improbable events -- including defeating Republican Kerry Bentivolio, who was elected to fill the two-year seat -- Curson is about to become a congressman.

Curson said he has “already got a dozen meetings set up” -- from the clerk of the House, who will hand him the keys to McCotter’s palatial suite in the Rayburn building, to fellow Michigan lawmakers.

One of those legislators, Democratic Representative John Dingell, who came to Capitol Hill in 1955 and is a longtime personal friend, will lend him some staff members, Curson said, so his district offices are up and running quickly. Dingell also has offered a room to sleep in for a few days.

Curson said he hasn’t decided if he will try to introduce any bills. He might co-sponsor some.

‘Important Vote’

On his campaign website, Curson highlighted in boldface type something that Dingell, the House’s longest-serving member, told him about his short term: “Every vote in Congress is an important vote, because that vote may directly impact many Americans for the rest of their lives.”

UAW President Bob King said Curson will be a “valuable asset” to Congress even though he will be there for less than two months. “Working people all across the country will be well-served to have someone with Dave’s commitment to preserving a strong middle class with good-paying jobs, and protecting Social Security and Medicare for our seniors,” he said in a statement.

Curson said he plans to return home to Michigan, and his union job, seven weeks from now, when his term expires. Asked if he would run against Bentivolio in 2014, he said he “doubts very much” he would do that, though he didn’t rule it out.

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