America and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Congress

Not much has gone right on Capitol Hill this year. 

America, it’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Congress in 2023. 

And that’s before getting to former Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y. 

We knew that 2023 would be a mortifying year on Capitol Hill from the moment the First Session of the 118th Congress commenced in January. The House quickly incinerated parts of five days and 15 ballots before presenting former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., with the gavel. It was a tense, rocky period. A foreshadowing of what was to come. 

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Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was elected speaker of the House in a contentious process early this year, then ousted before he ultimately announced he would retire. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

McCarthy’s election served as the longest speaker election in 164 years.

By October, McCarthy’s colleagues ousted him in an extraordinary vote. 

McCarthy repeatedly spoke throughout the year of never quitting. Never bending. Never yielding.

Well, McCarthy finally quit this month. His last day is next week. 

And we still haven’t even gotten to Santos.

The public often derides lawmakers for being part of a “do nothing Congress.” That refrain sometimes rings hollow, but voters certainly have a case after 2023. Congress approved a meager 30 bills this year which President Biden signed into law. Two were bills to avert government shutdowns. Another was to suspend the debt ceiling. 

But Congress doesn’t have much to show for its work this year. 

“Sometimes it takes us weeks, months, even a year around here to getting nothing done,” opined Sen. John Kennedy, R-La. 

Kennedy’s criticism isn’t lost on Democrats.

“This do nothing Republican Congress right now is the least productive in modern American history,” said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.

But don’t take Jeffries’ word for it. Listen to Rep. Chip Roy, R-Tex.

“I want my Republican colleagues to give me one thing – one — that I can go campaign on and say we did!” thundered Roy on the House floor.

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In fact, Roy’s speech epitomizes of the First Session of the 118th Congress.

“To anybody sitting in the complex, if you want to come down to the floor and come explain to me one material meaningful, significant thing the Republican majority has done besides ‘Well, I guess it’s not as bad as the Democrats!” hollered Roy. 

The vote to strip McCarthy of his gavel could have defined the year.

But it was only rivaled by an exasperating, 22-day, political odyssey where House Republicans churned through three nominees to serve as McCarthy’s successor before finally settling on House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La.

And we still haven’t even gotten to Santos.

“We have horrible Congresses and wonderful Congresses. You have meaningful policymaking and then you have the utter depths of stupidity,” observed House Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry, R-N.C.

But this truly is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year in Congress. 

In the children’s book “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” author Judith Viorist ushers us through all of the things which go wrong for a young schoolboy.

There are parallels between Alexander’s frustrating, quotidian sojourn and what’s happened this year on Capitol Hill. 

In art class, the teacher chastises Alexander for turning in a blank sheet of paper. Alexander protests that he drew an “invisible castle.”

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That might be kind of like Congress producing 12 appropriations bills to fund the government. Lawmakers have all touted various spending proposals all year. The next deadline for a shutdown is January 19. And like Alexander’s castle, a funding program appears to be invisible.

In math, the teacher upbraids Alexander for always skipping 16 when counting. 

In the House, Republicans sometimes do the same thing. Only the number they sometimes miss is 218. That’s the magic number in the House to pass most pieces of legislation.

The coup de grâce in 2023 may have been an aide recording themselves having sex in a Senate room of the Hart Senate Office Building.

In fact, we’ll take practically any of the other abominable events in Congress this year over whatever unfolded in the Hart hearing room. 

“Certainly anything like that defiles the room, and it certainly is not what the room was ever intended for,” said former Senate Historian Don Ritchie. “These rooms are used for historical purposes. For major events in history. And they’re going to be recorded and remembered that way.”

The Hart hearing room has hosted multiple Supreme Court nominee confirmation hearings. Inquiries into 9/11. Whitewater. The war in Iraq. Russiagate. Major Congressional events.

So it’s only fitting that this illicit sexual romp was 2023’s contribution to the long and storied history of that room. 

It was unclear this year if lawmakers may soon start to use hearing rooms for dual purposes. Say MMA fights. 

Such was the case when Sen. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., challenged a witness at a hearing to a fight.

Mullin even started to take off his wedding ring to prevent swelling, should he land a few blows. 

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Of course, Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., one of the eight Republicans who voted to extract McCarthy from the speakership, accused the California Republican of elbowing him in the kidneys after he strolled by in a Capitol basement. 

Burchett then chased McCarthy and his security detail down a Congressional tunnel. Burchett ultimately called the former speaker “a jerk.”

And we still haven’t even gotten to Santos yet.

There was other zaniness in Congress this year.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., pulled a false fire alarm.

The House then censured Bowman after he pleaded guilty in Washington, D.C., court and had to write an apology to the U.S. Capitol Police.

Bowman is a former elementary school principal and teacher. Perhaps as punishment, the judge could have required Bowman to write “sentences” on the Congressional chalkboard, Bart Simpson style.

“I will not pull a fire alarm while the House is taking a quorum call ahead of a vote to avert a government shutdown.” 

“I will not pull a fire alarm while the House is taking a quorum call ahead of a vote to avert a government shutdown.” 

“I will not pull a fire alarm while the House is taking a quorum call ahead of a vote to avert a government shutdown.” 

Naturally, “writing sentences” is repetitive. So, don’t expect House Education Committee Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., to launch a probe to see if Bowman plagiarized his sentences. The Education panel investigated plagiarism allegations surrounding Harvard President Claudine Gay. 

And we still haven’t even gotten to Santos.

There was an utter blockbuster of a hearing before the House Oversight Committee in July, when a government whistleblower testified that the government may be hiding non-human remains – perhaps from alien spacecraft. 

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers is pushing the government to reveal what is known about the unknown when it comes to UFOs.

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In fact, a hearing on UFOs may be one of the few things in Congress this year that actually made sense. 

Lawmakers are so frustrated by Congress that several are expected to step down in early 2024. Former members are glad they either left or were defeated years ago.

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