Alan Grayson is running 40 minutes late, but his reason is sound. At 11:30 a.m., the House Science Committee started marking up NASA’s funding bill, adding and subtracting whatever they could. At 5 p.m., the committee was still at it. When the members finished a half hour later, the only headline they’d generate would be about the killing of a program to “send a robotic mission to a small asteroid by 2016.”
Grayson, once again, had walked under the radar. The Democratic congressman from Orlando had convinced the Republican-run committee to adopt five of his amendments. One would bar “the federal government from awarding contracts to corporations convicted of fraud,” and another would force NASA to “consider American public-private partnership human space flight” before it partnered with foreign space programs. Each was getting him closer to an unheralded title: The congressman who’s passed more amendments than any of his 434 peers.
“We’ve passed 31 amendments in committee so far,” says Grayson. “Hardly any Democrats who put in amendments put in any effort to get to 218. They just think they’ve accomplished something when it’s ruled in order, and that’s the end of the story.”
The last time the media noticed Alan Grayson, he was a freshman Democrat, a member of the 2008 Obama wave, trying and failing to survive 2010. Grayson joked that Dick Cheney left a “torture rack” in the White House, said that the Republican health care plan was for people to “die quickly”—so on and so on, all very helpful to a press trying to prove that the Tea Party had an ideological match on the left. Grayson went down by 18 points to the blandly conservative former state senator Daniel Webster, or “Taliban Dan,” as a Grayson ad called him. The Washington Post eulogized him as “a controversial liberal icon that many in the Democratic Party weren’t sad to see lose.”
Grayson’s back because the last round of redistricting created a new, safe seat in metro Orlando. He won it, reclaiming a job he says he wants to keep “for a long, long time.” In doing so he’s stopped being a Republican target and started getting along with the majority. In his office, the only evidence that he used to irritate the other party is a plaque on his desk: I Have Flying Monkeys and I’m Not Afraid to Use Them. He doesn’t use them on Republicans anymore. “I don’t think they feel the same sort of glee,” he says. “I don’t see them using me as a fundraising ploy.”