Slide Show: The 10 Worst Members of Congress You've Never Heard Of | The Nation

Slide Show: The 10 Worst Members of Congress You've Never Heard Of

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    The 10 Worst Members of Congress You've Never Heard Of (1 of 11)

    Once their votes are cast, many Americans don’t hear from their members of Congress again for the duration of the their term. And since the mainstream media focuses mainly on just a few of our elected officials, the deeds of many representatives—good and bad—go unnoticed on the national scene. But politicians don’t always need publicity to make their mark—this lack of scrutiny has let the right go about their business of rolling back worker protections, selling out our environment and tearing down that pesky wall between church and state, largely unhindered and often unnoticed.


    To shed some light on these unknown representatives, we’ve compiled a list of the ten worst members of Congress you’ve never heard of. Dubious campaign financing, reactionary voting records, tasteless rhetorical provocations and generally hacking away at America’s social foundations—that’s what we mean when we say they’re the “worst.”  


    Credit: Reuters Pictures

  • Barrasso

    John Barrasso, R-Wyoming (2 of 11)

    Senator Barrasso is one of Congress’s most passionate defenders of the oil and gas industry: he was militantly opposed to even a temporary oil-drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico immediately following the BP disaster. In a 2009 appearance on the Glenn Beck Show, he said the EPA is “way off base” in deeming CO2 a pollutant: “If you’re going to call [CO2] a pollutant, well then you oughta call electromagnetic waves and noise a pollutant and maybe regulate that too.


    He’s also the mastermind behind the most draconian of energy bills, the “Defending America’s Affordable Energy and Jobs Act,” which would totally bar the EPA and the federal government from enforcing reductions in CO2 emissions. Never mind that these regulatory powers already exist as statutory rights granted under existing environmental law and are actually required by international law.


    Credit: AP Images

  • Vern Buchanan

    Vern Buchanan, R–Florida (3 of 11)

    Buchanan squeaked into office by a mere 400 votes in 2006, and since then has pushed for a reduction in government spending and lower taxes in order to “grow [the] economy,”—all while he moved profits from his two reinsurance companies to offshore tax havens. While the practice technically remains lawful, the US could be taking in net billions in revenue each year by simply taxing the more than one trillion dollars of uncollected corporate earnings deliberately channeled overseas. But that’s not the type of fiscal responsibility that one of the richest members of Congress—with a net worth of over $353 million—is willing to consider.


    Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has named Buchanan one of the most corrupt members of Congress. Accordingly, the FEC filed suit over three months ago regarding alleged campaign fraud and has sent three letters to Buchanan’s treasurer asking for more information on campaign contributions.


    Credit: AP Images

  • Dan Boren, D–Oklahoma

    Dan Boren, D–Oklahoma (4 of 11)

    Boren’s voting record is hardly typical of his party: a Democrat, Boren voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, despite the fact that his district’s health coverage falls behind nearly all others in the country (29.3% of persons under 65 have no health insurance). He voted against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and voted to defund Planned Parenthood. He even voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, legislation designed to protect workers from discriminatory remuneration.


    Boren opposes closing the Guantánamo Bay torture camp. He’s a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and a member of their Board of Directors. In April 2005, Boren voted for the “relieve-the-rich” bill to repeal the estate tax. He has opposed efforts to increase fuel efficiency and supported the 2005 Energy Policy Act that included provisions to hand out billions of dollars in subsidies to the oil industry. In 2009-2010 alone, Boren received $212,000 from the oil and gas industry, by far his largest source of campaign funding.


    Credit: AP Images

  • Lynn Westmoreland, R–Georgia

    Lynn Westmoreland, R–Georgia (5 of 11)

    In a 2008 discussion with a reporter from the Congressional Quarterly,  Westmoreland said he had “never paid that much attention” to the “uppity” Obamas. When asked to clarify his peculiar choice of words, Westmoreland affirmed, “Yeah, uppity.” He later claimed he did not know of the word’s racist connotations and was simply making an innocent remark about the Obamas’ elitism.


    In another show of ignorance, after spending months cosponsoring bills that would require the Ten Commandments to be publicly displayed in the House, Senate and courthouses across the country, Westmoreland was unable to name all Ten Commandments during a 2008 interview on The Colbert Report.


    Finally, at the Faith and Freedom Conference last September, Westmoreland publicly encouraged a government shutdown: obstructing basic government functions was like disinfecting a wound, he said, referring to a time when he cut himself with a chainsaw and had to apply a stinging antiseptic. Are vital services such as Medicaid and Medicare payments to low-income families and the elderly really like a spreading gangrene infection?


    Credit: AP Images

  • Don Young, R–Alaska

    Don Young, R–Alaska (6 of 11)

    Young has been serving since 1973, which makes it all the more surprising that he hasn’t gotten more negative attention. During the BP Gulf oil spill,  Young maintained that it was “not an environmental disaster.” Could his expert scientific opinion have something to do with the fact that in 2009-2010, Young’s largest single campaign contribution, totaling $45,200, came from Edison Chouest Offshore, a company that supports the “vast majority of the U.S. Gulf deepwater market”?


    In January 2011, Young introduced an amendment that, if passed, will prevent the EPA from regulating risky exploratory drilling off the coast of Alaska, his home state. The resolution would exempt companies from environmental law, so that Shell Oil could evade EPA restrictions if it wanted to invest in Alaska’s Northern shore market. But certainly the more than $33,000 that Young received in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry in 2009-10 have nothing to do with his commitment to the amendment.


    Credit: AP Images

  • Paul Broun, R–Georgia

    Paul Broun, R–Georgia (7 of 11)

    Broun called President Obama a socialist after the 2011 State of the Union and has said that his whole administration is crawling with “devout socialists.” Then, when asked at a February 2011 town hall, “Who is going to shoot Obama?” Broun responded by saying, “The thing is, I know there’s a lot of frustration with this president. We’re going to have an election next year. Hopefully, we’ll elect somebody that’s going to be a conservative.” But if not, then what will happen, Broun? Later Broun issued a statement clarifying that he “was stunned by the question and chose not to dignify it with a response.” But surely Broun, who has previously likened Obama to Hitler, could have seen this coming.  


    Broun stubbornly believes anthropogenic climate change is a liberal hoax, paying short shrift to the overwhelming consensus among serious scientists who have actually studied the matter. He proposed a prudish and unnecessary bill to restrict access to sexually explicit material for military workers abroad. With 1 out of every 5 persons in his district without health insurance, Broun also rejected the Affordable Care Act that would have granted his constituents much-needed healthcare access.


    Credit: AP Images

  • Daniel Lipinski, D–Illinois

    Daniel Lipinski, D–Illinois (8 of 11)

    Lipinski was the only Illinois Democrat to oppose the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.Turns out it wasn’t restrictive enough on abortion. Any willingness to negotiate and at least allow individuals to write a separate check for the procedure in question? None, whatsoever, he insisted, along with Democrat Bart Stupak and Republican Joe Pitts. So the bipartisan effort to begin repairing our absurdly inefficient health system stalled over a moral question that shouldn’t even be regulated by the state. At the time of his “nay” vote, approximately 17% of Lipinski’s most vulnerable constituents under age 65 were uninsured. Lipinski also voted against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” voted to defund Planned Parenthood and is militantly opposed to immigration amnesty.


    Credit: AP Images

  • Louie Gohmert, R–Texas

    Louie Gohmert, R–Texas (9 of 11)

    Gohmert is a former judge, but what’s more astounding given his love of crackpot theories is that he’s an elected representative for the most powerful country on the planet. In December 2009 Gohmert implied in a House speech that repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and passing the Matthew Shepard hate crimes bill would not only endorse bestiality and necrophilia, but would also somehow be analogous to the moral decline of Nazi Germany in the 1930s. And just this month, he argued that the federal debt could lead to another holocaust.


    But his hatred doesn’t stop there: Gohmert refers to immigrant workers in this country as “violent, illegal, alien, drug-smugglers taking over American soil.” He also fathered a spurious “terror baby” theory, arguing that many foreign mothers enter the US prior to conceiving a child in order for their offspring to gain US citizenship. The mothers then, according to Gohmert, return to radical enclaves abroad where caretakers deliberately raise the child to become a terrorist, ensuring a steady stream of jihadists for future attacks on US soil. When Anderson Cooper probed Gohmert to provide any shard of evidence, Gohmert refused and went into a discombobulated hissy fit.


    Credit: AP Images

  • Richard Burr, R–North Carolina

    Richard Burr, R–North Carolina (10 of 11)

    Reagan had his economics, Monroe had his doctrine, and Richard Burr had the “Burr amendment,” a tack-on to the Energy Policy Act of 2003 designed to compromise extant laws restricting high-enriched uranium (HEU). HEU is the most efficacious bomb-grade substance used for advanced weaponry and can be used in dirty bombs, and Burr wanted to make it easier to move it around the world. In the lead-up to the amendment proposal, Burr was in the top 2 percent of Congressmen receiving money from the nuclear industry. So Burr’s moral compass cynically points towards the demands of his financial backers.


    Similarly, as Senator Burr railed against Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act he was the second largest Senate recipient of donations from HMOs and the private health industry and the highest paid Senator from the pharmaceutical and health products industry. And while the GOP touts their spurious partnership with Main Street entrepreneurs, Burr voted against the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010 that puts $30 billion aside for funding loans, revitalizing credit and giving tax breaks to struggling small businesses. So much for standing by your base.


    Credit: AP Images

  • Dennis Rehberg, R–Montana

    Dennis Rehberg, R–Montana (11 of 11)

    Rehberg’s heartlessness spans decades: in 1994, Newsweek reported that Rehberg, in defense of state budget cuts to hospitals, said “the problem with AIDS is: you get it, you die. So why are we spending money on the issue?” More recently, in 2007, Rehberg voted against the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which extends protection from hate crimes to victims of malice and violence based on gender and sexual orientation. An adamant supporter of the Iraq war, he voted against a bill to give troops mandatory rest periods between deployments. He thinks that his state’s “coal and natural gas reserves stretch for hundreds of years into the future.” He calls efforts to protect the survival of Yellowstone’s gray wolves “extremist.”


    This year, Rehberg announced his candidacy for the US Senate.


    Research for this slide show provided by Ryan Milan Rafaty


    Credit: AP Images

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