Some More Thoughts About Denny’s Stunt in Washington

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I wonder why Representative Rehberg and his colleagues in Washington weren’t concerned about the Congress doing its work in 2006, when they controlled the chamber. Charles Pope wondered the same thing back then:

Something must’ve been lost in translation.

How else to explain Congress’ decision to give itself a seven-day recess in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Or a weeklong break in February for Presidents Day.

Or a two-week break for Easter and Passover and the entire month of August, which has no official holiday at all.

At a time when the war in Iraq is bogged down, debate is raging about the government conducting warrantless searches and the federal deficit is at a record high, the House is on schedule to meet for the fewest number of days in 60 years, according to one estimate. The Senate is not far behind.

Maybe we should ask Congressional scholar Thomas Mann about the the 109th Congress, under Republican control:

“The 109th Congress vies for the title of the all-time worst Congress,” said Thomas Mann, a political analyst at the Brookings Institution and co-author of “The Broken Branch” with Ornstein. Mann’s indictment of the 109th includes these charges: “It spent little time in session, it failed to pass budget resolutions and appropriations bills, there was no serious oversight of the disaster in Iraq, there were no major substantive policy achievements, and corrupt members were forced from Congress.”

Perhaps, though, it’s not fair to blame Representative Rehberg for the failure of the Republican Congress. After all, he is still a relatively unimportant member of the body. Surely his personal record demonstrates a commitment to doing the people’s work during the August recess.

For example, the work of Congress was foremost on Representative Rehberg’s mind last August, while fires were raging in Montana, right? Was he in Washington, demanding swift federal assistance? In Montana, boosting the morale of the firefighters?

Of course not. He was taking a week long trip to France and a weeklong trip to Chile, funded by the Montana World Trade Center, a group he had generously given a Congressional earmark to previously.

Maybe Representative Rehberg felt that the work of Congress was less important in August 2003, when he spent it flying around Europe, on your dime:

While most House Members are now home doing their usual district work, the chamber’s top two Republicans will spend this week hopscotching around the globe visiting friendly countries. The trip was scheduled to include GOP Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), Jim Nussle (Iowa), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.), Doc Hastings (Wash.), Sue Myrick (N.C.), Charlie Norwood (Ga.) and Denny Rehberg (Mont.) as well as Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings (Fla.). (Roll Call July 28, 2003)

My point here is not to demonstrate that Rehberg is a hypocrite more interested in self-promotion than the interests of Montanans. His votes on  veterans issues, education, and health care have made that clear in the past. What is frustrating about Rehberg and his colleagues is that they pretend the issue of tight energy supply and increasing prices magically happened over the past few months and that a few political stunts can change the situation. Where was their leadership when they controlled both houses of Congress and the Presidency?

Probably on vacation.

Update: If the Missoulian is going to shill for the Republicans on this stunt, shouldn’t they at least re-write the press release?

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it’s a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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