If, in these troubled times, there is still one infinitesimal comfort, one consistency, one spring eternal, upon which we may rely, it is that given half a chance, Republican legislators, especially of this most recent crop, will say something that goes beyond mere stupidity – which would arguably be almost excusable – and heads, speeding full tilt, breezing by hypocrisy, to reach a level of thought, a mental dimension, in which the speaker may be considered closer to such eldritch monstrosities as populate the stories of our dear H.P. Lovecraft than to the fellow members of their ostensible species.
Wednesday we had the honorable gentleman from Texas, Mr. Randy Neugebauer, quite properly scolding a park ranger for a shutdown he helped engineer:
“How do you look at them and … deny them access?” [he asked]
“It’s difficult,” the Ranger replied. “Well, it should be difficult,” scorned the congressman. “It is difficult,” the Ranger repeated. “I’m sorry, sir.”
“The Park Service should be ashamed of themselves,” said Neugebauer. “I’m not ashamed,” the Ranger retorted.
“You should be,” sneered Neugebauer.
It might be worth pointing out that Mr. Neugebauer was wearing a flag in his suitcoat pocket, which is again one of those things that in a sane country would get you roundly accused of “trying too hard.”
It might also be worth pointing out, in this context, that Mr. Neugebauer is also the guy who yelled “baby killer!” during a speech by Bart Stupak. You know, the one Stupak delivered after the Affordable Care Act was finally frickin’ passed, despite Stupak’s last-minute hissy fit nearly managing to stop progress on that bill.
Thursday we have the honorable lady from North Carolina, Mrs. Renee Ellmers, defending her decision to continue taking her paycheck during the shutdown:
“I need my paycheck. That’s the bottom line,” Ellmers told WTVD in Raleigh, N.C. “I understand that there may be some other members who are deferring their paychecks, and I think that’s admirable. I’m not in that position.”
Of course, now that this position has proven somewhat controversial, Mrs. Ellmers has reversed herself, while deflecting blame for her original statement onto her political opponents.
In a statement sent out by her office Friday, Ellmers blamed the shutdown on Democrats for refusing to negotiate over the Affordable Care Act.
“I have been fighting against this shutdown every day and will continue to work to ensure that President Obama and Senator Reid come to the negotiating table and work with us to provide a reasonable solution to this that ensures we act responsibly for all Americans,”
Ellmers said she’s confident the shutdown will end before November. But if it does not, she will decline her pay.
“I will stand with all federal workers and have my paycheck withheld,” she said.
Yesterday, Friday, it was the honorable gentleman from Nebraska, Mr. Lee Terry. Like Mrs. Ellmers, Mr. Terry will not be foregoing his pay and, also like Mrs. Ellmers, Mr. Terry seems to think that federal employees require no housing, education, or other basic needs of living:
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., was blunt when asked if he would continue collecting his paychecks during the shutdown.
“Dang straight,” he said.
Terry suggested it’s an irrelevant question because the situation would be resolved before long.
What about the other members who were donating or forgoing their pay?
“Whatever gets them good press,” Terry said. “That’s all that it’s going to be. God bless them. But you know what? I’ve got a nice house and a kid in college, and I’ll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That’s just not going to fly.”
He acknowledged that many federal employees aren’t getting paid because of the shutdown.
“We’re fighting to get them back to work. That’s the real issue, is getting this thing done,” Terry said. “I’m working with leadership. I’m trying to figure out ways to get this done.”
And lastly, from Wednesday as well, we have the honorable gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Marlin Stutzman, who was gracious enough to give us the real rationale behind all of this political bullshit theater we’ve had to witness this week:
“We’re not going to be disrespected,” conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., added. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”
I admit that I, like Nebraska’s Senator Deb Fischer, consider the issue of Congressional pay to be mostly moral theatrics.* But the impressive part of these statements, at least to me, isn’t that they want to keep their pay, or be respected, or that they think it’s shameful to have a national park closed down when veterans are visiting.
What floors me is that they seem to have literally no idea either that there are other people in the world who have, I daresay, worse troubles than they do, or that they have anything to do with these events. They really believe that they are the only actual people in the universe.
I know by now some of you are already exhausted of hearing about this, and I promise you I don’t want to belabor these points any more than absolutely necessary. But if you are a member of the voting public, regardless of how you vote, this is why you matter.
I’m not saying, like some people seem to think I must because I do not simply dismiss Democrats and Republicans as equally culpable for this event, that politicians are amazing human beings or that they care deeply about the future of the American republic. But I am saying that the next time you hit the ballot box, you should be thinking long and hard about whether the person you choose to represent you is going to be willing to hold the government hostage in exchange for delaying a law that is long passed and approved and then have the bald audacity to complain about it.
* Not that I’d shed a tear if their pay were cut off, either through the legislation Tom Latham has apparently proposed (and which I am all but convinced will make a hasty exit stage fuck-off the moment the shutdown ends) or through a constitutional amendment. Please do not take me for some reflexive defender of the privileges of Congresspeople, beyond what is necessary to ensure a functioning legislature and government.† But I do think that it feeds into the idea that the two parties are equally culpable for the shutdown and that both sides are refusing to negotiate and that if they only just sat down they could work out a fair compromise.
† Right, how is that working out for us again?