Email #180: “Getting Things Done”

As I was leaving your DC office after a helpful conversation with your chief of staff last Tuesday, Charlie asked if I was aware of the bipartisan bills that you had voted for in May. I was embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t. I’d just been expressing my concern over the lack of bipartisanism in Congress, yours particularly. Looking it up now, I see the list is substantive.

The Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act passed with only one nay in the beginning of the month. The Honoring Hometown Heroes Act, which allows the flying of the flag at half-staff when first responders die in the line of duty, also passed with only one nay in mid-month. And in the last week of May, the Private Act, which amends the military code to prohibit the wrongful distribution of intimate images, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act, and the VA Scheduling Accountability Act all passed unanimously. The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act also passed with only three nays, and two other bills, the Global Child Protection Act and the Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act, passed with strong bipartisan support, with 30 and 51 nays.

As Charlie said, this seems like solid bipartisan work. But that is why I’m disappointed by how you characterized it. One reason I didn’t know was your newsletter column, “The House is Getting Things Done,” ignored the bipartisanism. You wrote on May 26:

“Of the many bills that have passed the House so far this year, most haven’t made headlines. But they have covered a host of issues that are important to the American people. Over the past week, the House passed a series of bills to help protect children from exploitation and trafficking and bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. The House recently passed the VA Scheduling Accountability Act, geared toward ending delays for veterans waiting for care, as well as measures to improve the appeals process for veterans filing disability claims and to modernize the way the Department of Veterans of Affairs serves veterans. The House has responded to threats on the international stage by approving bills to impose sanctions on supporters of Syria’s brutal Assad regime and enhancing sanctions on North Korea.”

Here and nowhere else in the column or elsewhere that I can find do you acknowledge let alone emphasize that this work unified the House. This is a wasted opportunity. Our country is horribly divided. Our elected officials should be working to bridge that divide, and as the party in power, the duty falls disproportionately on the GOP. In this case you could have made a positive gesture with no negative consequences to your agenda. If Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on child rape, veterans, and the danger of North Korea, how can they hope to tackle more divisive issues?

I ask that in your next press release or newsletter column you draw much needed attention to this and other important bipartisan legislation.

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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