Washington Watch: Linder finds advantages in being a short-timer

Not Rep. John Linder of Duluth.

Linder, who is retiring at the end of this year, told me he's still a fan of earmarks, and would not hesitate to request them when warranted. Republican Party leaders, he said, are going overboard when it comes to earmarks, which have become the symbol of government waste even though in reality they represent only about 1 percent of all government spending.

"I just think earmarks get overly emphasized by how people perceive things that they hear in the media," Linder said.

Linder actually has requested relatively few earmarks in recent years.

The only one he asked for in fiscal 2010 was $1 million for improvements to an intersection of I-85 and Pleasant Hill Road in Gwinnett County, according to data from the group Taxpayers for Common Sense. In the past, Linder also has requested earmarks for improvements to U.S. 78 and other roads in his district.

Sure, some lawmakers have abused earmarks, Linder said.

But "I'm not embarrassed to admit that I earmarked money that improved the safety of the [U.S.] Highway 78 corridor," he added.

One thing Linder told me he's never liked -- and won't miss when he leaves -- is campaign fund-raising, which traditionally gets into full swing in June.

"It's what we all hate to do the most," said the congressman, who was first elected in 1992.

Lastly, while he still makes it to most votes, Linder doesn't spend a lot of time on the House floor these days.

More often, you'll find him sitting in a big leather chair in one corner of the House speaker's lounge off the floor, reading The Wall Street Journal or some other newspaper.

It's quieter out there, Linder explained. And besides, he added, "I don't want to be seen on the floor reading the newspaper."

Rep. Johnson takes MARTA

Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Lithonia is mighty proud of his recent appointment to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee -- and he's taking it mighty seriously.

Johnson and his wife, Mereda, recently took a Saturday morning fact-finding trip on MARTA buses and trains throughout his district.

True, the Johnsons traveled about as first-class as you can travel on MARTA. Their personal guide was MARTA CEO Beverly Scott.

But Johnson's spokesman was quick to point out that the congressman did pay his own way -- he bought a $4 Breeze card and used about half of it -- and made a point to chat up regular riders on the bus and train about MARTA issues.

"He rode the bus and train just like everyone else trying to get to work, the doctor or do their Saturday grocery shopping," spokesman Andy Phelan said.

The last time Johnson was on MARTA was in late 2009 or early 2010, according to Phelan.

That trip was undoubtedly a little tougher.

With airports closed in Washington because of bad weather, Johnson took a Greyhound bus from D.C. to Atlanta, and then took MARTA to get home, Phelan said.

Gibbs: Go Braves?

Everybody knows the commander in chief is a Chicago White Sox fan. But his spokesman in chief is apparently a fan of the Atlanta Braves.

The Braves is one of about 200 feeds that Robert Gibbs regularly follows on his Twitter account. (Note he's also apparently a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, for some reason.)

It's not overly surprising that Gibbs is a fan of the South's favorite team.

He grew up in Auburn, Ala., and graduated from North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

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