The ugliest session that Congress holds is the one just before the August recess of an election year.
Members do not want to legislate, let alone deliberate. They just want to get home and campaign.
But some things have to be done. And when crude partisans try to delay necessary measures, a question arises: Sould they be treated with the respect they are not do, or should they be called out.
New York Congressman Anthony Weiner decided to call them out, creating the video that went viral—and the cure for Democratic doldrums.
Because they were not allowed to add pork-barrel amendments, House Republican blocked a bill that would have provided up to $7.4 billion for long-term medical treatment and compensation for emergency responders and victims of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
That was too much for Weiner—who represents many of those who need the care. "It’s Republicans wrapping their arms around Republicans rather than doing the right thing on behalf of the heroes," Weiner shouted from a lectern on the House floor. "It is a shame. A shame! If you believe this is a bad idea to provide health care—then vote no! But don’t give me the cowardly view that ‘Oh if it was a different procedure’…"
Comparing the tactics of the House Republicans to those of their Senate colleagues, who frequently play procedural games in order to prevent action on popular bills, Weiner mocked his colleagues. "We see it in the United States Senate every single day, where members say, ‘We want amendments, we want debate, we want amendments—but we’re still a ‘No,’ " Weiner yelled, before offering his view that members of Congress should stop playing games and start voting their consciences: "You vote yes if you believe yes…if you believe it’s the right thing. If you believe it’s the wrong thing, you vote no."
That was too much for Republican members, including New York Congressman Peter King, who backed the legislation but—bizarrely—also defended GOP efforts to delay and block it. (The legislation did not pass. Despite winning the overwhelming majority of votes in the House, it did not get the two-thirds needed to overcome the Republican attempts to amend and alter it.)
An embarrassed King, whose district is home to many 9/11 victims, tried to shout Weiner down.
The Republican demanded that Weiner "yield."
"I will not!" Weiner shouted. "The gentleman will observe regular order and sit down! The gentleman will sit!"
"I will not stand here and listen to my colleague say ‘oh. if only I had a different procedure that allows us to stall, stall and stall’ and then vote ‘no.’" Instead of standing up and defending your colleagues in voting ‘no’ on this humane bill, you should urge them to vote ‘yes’—something the gentleman has not done."
It was a dramatic moment—so dramatic that the Republican amen corner in the media has tried to discredit Weiner, with the New York Post suggesting that the congressman "get…to a pharmacy—fast" because he’s "a candidate for medication." Fox hosts went round-the-clock with ridicule. The worst was anchor Bill Hemmer, who tried to foster the fantasy that objecting to procedural trickery is what upsets Americans about Congress.
Referring to the incident, Hemmer claimed: "Gentlemen, this may be why, today, Congress has an 11% approval rating by the American public."
In fact, if more Democrats were like Weiner, Americans would be making distinctions between the two caucuses in Congress.
King and his kind might still have an 11 percent—or lower—approval rating.
But members like Weiner, who actually fight for their constituents, who reject the gamplaying and call out the gameplayers, will have nothing to fear from the people.
That is a lesson Weiner’s fellow Democrats should take to heart.