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Chaffetz says he’s working ‘nearly around the clock’

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Jason Chaffetz

Jason Chaffetz

Congressman-elect Jason Chaffetz says he is already working nearly around the clock — without pay or much sleep — to organize and get a jump on his upcoming first term.

"I've worked for this for two years. Now that I'm elected, I'm too fired up to sit still," he said.

So he's called almost all of the other 17 incoming GOP freshmen nationally. "If we're going to get things done, we need to work together. There's strength in numbers. I want us to build friendships," he said.

He has talked to House Republican leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Eric Cantor, R-Va., whom Chaffetz expects to be elected as the new minority whip. He chatted with them about possible committee assignments and the upcoming Congress. He's called others in the Utah delegation for advice and tips.

He's called dozens of volunteers who helped him to give thanks. He's having a party at a restaurant for them today, but volunteers should not expect lavish food from the fiscal conservative. "They will have to buy their own dinner there," he said, but added he will shake their hand and say thanks.

Speaking of saving money, Chaffetz says he does not even intend to look for an apartment to rent in Washington — let alone a home to buy there.

"Maybe I'm too cheap, but I plan to live in my office. Give me a blow-up mattress and I'm good," he said. "I don't sleep much anyway. I can't see spending $1,500 a month for a little apartment when I wouldn't be there much anyway." He would shower at the House gym.

"My wife worries that the office might start smelling bad," he said with a laugh. "But that's the plan for now. It may change later."

Obviously with that plan, his family will continue to live in Utah — and he will commute to Washington for its normal Tuesday to Thursday business sessions.

"If I do this job right, I will spend a little time in Washington and the rest of my time working in my district," he said. "I'm a commuter. I will have a lot of frequent flier miles on Delta Air Lines."

Chaffetz said he has already been flooded with resumes by people who want to join his staff. He said he has sketched out the organization he hopes to have — including having district offices both in Provo and in Salt Lake County.

He said he hopes to hire a chief of staff and a district director first, then work with them through all those resumes to choose the rest of the staff.

Chaffetz plans to fly to Washington for weeklong freshman orientation that begins on Nov. 16. During that week, he will pick a number from a hat that will determine his official seniority. That will determine when he can pick his new office, among other things.

He plans to scout out available offices to ensure he can select a good one when his time arrives. "Like in fantasy football, you need to know the players so when it is time to draft, you are ready. I hope I get a high draft number so I can get a good pick — and can have an office big enough for an inflatable mattress."

Chaffetz said the week of freshman orientation should also allow him to talk to party leaders and chairmen about committee possibilities.

While he expects two assignments, among the many possibilities he would welcome are serving on Homeland Security, Foreign Affairs, Oversight and Government Reform, Natural Resources, Financial Services or the Transportation committees.

He said all the calls and planning hasn't left much time for sleep — including just three hours the night of the election. "I'm raring to go," he said. "This is fun."

E-mail: lee@desnews.com