Dear 115th Congress,
Hello, you knuckleheads. It’s me, America. Well, you really started things off with a bang, didn’t you? What was supposed to be your celebratory affair on Tuesday morning—welcoming new and returning members of Congress—turned into a complete and utter disaster after what you pulled on Monday night. One may call it an ill-fated reach; others may refer to it as sneaky and distasteful; I prefer to think of it as idiotic. House Republicans, led by Representative Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia, attempted to prevent the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) from pursuing investigations into members of Congress that might result in criminal charges.
It’s like before the race even started you managed to trip over your own shoelaces. Even Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and President-elect Donald Trump were against this. You know you’ve fucked up when those two are condemning you. Crippling the Ethics Committee? Really? How dense can you be?
We know Congress’ track record, and we are not fooled. In May of this year, The Atlantic did an article about the worst Congress in history. And congratulations, 114th Congress, you took the cake! You even beat out the 112th Congress—which was the most ineffective in history, according to Pew Research Center, passing a mere 208 substantive bills in its two years—the lowest recorded in congressional history. This laziness and ineptitude even edged out the 113th Congress, which passed only four more bills, and saw Ted Cruz reading Green Eggs and Ham on the Senate Floor. That’s right, 114th Congress, you were worse than a grown man mumbling the words of Dr. Seuss to our elected officials.
We do, however, commend the constituents of the 115th Congress’ men and women. You got on the phone and you inundated your representatives with calls denouncing such an action. Internet searches for the phrase “Who is my representative?” flooded search engines shortly after news of this broke, and by Tuesday morning it had reached its peak. Their outrage rattled your sneaky play so effectively, your hopes of reduced oversight were squashed even before it could reach the voting floor. We insisted we would keep fighting the good fight, and we will continue to prove that we’re not going anywhere.
On Tuesday morning, Representative Goodlatte took to The Hill to vent about our misconceptions of the meeting and his hopes to limit the committee’s power. His claim was that he was improving the OCE, rather than dismantling it—even though one of his suggestions was renaming the committee altogether. He writes, “while the name may change, the office maintains its independence and mission to review complaints...” Really? If your suggestions were so innocuous, why try and slip this in without going through the proper channels? You even wrote, “Today the OCE is able to accept anonymous complaints, meaning literally anyone from anywhere in the world can send something through a website and potentially disparage the reputation of a Member without a basis in fact. Responding to an anonymous accusation drags good people’s names through the mud, costs the accused tens of thousands of dollars, and costs people their jobs.” According to the OCE’s website, though, it takes a great deal for an investigation even to reach the preliminary stages. Investigations are broken up into a 30 day preliminary review and then a second-phase, 45 day review. In fact, it takes at least two members of the OCE Board to request an investigation before it can begin. The fact that you think any bumpkin off the street can sully the name of a Congress man or woman through the manipulation of the OCE is blatantly unfounded. Mr. Goodlatte, it’s like you got caught with your hand in the cookie jar and you told your mother the Cookie Monster is in your basement and he made you do it. Take some responsibility for your asinine idea. In a time when there is so much distrust and paranoia surrounding politics and our representatives, don’t hold a surprise, closed-door meeting to keep the one independent body from investigating issues of misconduct. We’d like to think our representatives are smarter and savvier than that, and we don’t appreciate you taking us for imbeciles?
I mean, seriously, how stupid do you think we are, 115th Congress? You knocked on our door and the first thing you say is, “While it’s true we’re following in the footsteps of some historical and colossal fuck-ups, please don’t monitor us in the event we may accept inappropriate gifts or goods for certain works we may or may not do.” Are you serious? This would be like releasing sex offenders into halfway houses and telling them, “Hey, you know those ankle bracelets we use to monitor your whereabouts? They don’t actually work.”
We say again: “Good one.”
There is so much to do, so many problems to solve, so many laws to pass, and this was the first of your efforts? You need to focus waging wars on poverty, affordable healthcare, and equal pay for women. You need to create and enact a federalized minimum wage rate. You need to fix the floundering programs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. You need to fight back against the idea of school vouchers and pour money into our public education systems through grants and endowments. You need to do so many things in your 700+ days, and you start off by attempting to put in a preemptive measure ensuring that, when you inevitably fuck up, there won’t be anyone around to hold you accountable?
Good one, you absolute, unequivocal jabronis. Make sure to pay your phone bill, because we can’t wait to keep calling.
(This letter originally appeared on Pecorino & Eggs on January 4, 2017)