Every so often, I am moved to write a speech I'd dearly love to see President Obama give to the nation. This is one of those occasions. Call it a summertime daydream, if you will, but there's something going on right now in Washington that is downright obscene, and I think it would behoove the president to address it in the following fashion. I sure know I'd support his action, if he gave the following speech. And I suspect most everyone else would, too -- across the entire political spectrum.
Remarks as prepared for delivery by President Obama
Good evening, ladies and gentleman. I have a short statement to make, on the subject of yet another showdown in Congress -- all of whom apparently feel perfectly comfortable leaving town without doing their duty.
I cannot conceive of greater irony than the spectacle going on right now in Washington airports. Members of Congress are all flying home to enjoy a month of paid vacation (at taxpayer expense, of course). Most of them -- the ones who live outside the immediate region -- are flying home on airplanes out of airports which are all overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration. The cruel irony is that as Congress wings its way merrily off to sunny shores for a month, they forgot to pass a bill authorizing the F.A.A.'s budget. Talk about a free ride!
This is the absolute height of irresponsibility. The absolute apex of not caring what happens to America while they play their political games. Congress isn't worried that air traffic controllers won't be on the job, but they seem not to care that they've just made 70,000 people jobless, as projects the F.A.A. oversees grind to a halt because of Congress' refusal to do their jobs.
This is unacceptable. This is beyond dysfunctional. This is, in fact, an outrage. So I'm giving Congress a grace period of precisely two days, to get their butts back to Washington to fix this problem immediately. If I don't have a bill on my desk by the end of this Friday, I will instruct my Attorney General to immediately put every member of Congress on the "no-fly" list. To be blunt, if they can't find the time to fund the F.A.A. and prefer to take weeks off on vacation instead, then they will not be allowed to use the F.A.A.'s services in the meantime. Period.
I am sick of the partisan bickering in Washington, and I believe most Americans are just as disgusted by what Congress normally does as well -- or, more to the point, what they do not do. I blame all of them, which is why every single one of them will be on the "no-fly" list starting this Saturday morning. They can just take the bus to get to their corporate-sponsored junkets in the sunshine -- but they will not fly to get there. As every teenager in the country eventually discovers, when you don't do your homework, then you get grounded. Literally "grounded," in this case.
Members of Congress will just have to figure out another way of returning to Washington after this Saturday, because the airports will be closed to them. Folks in Congress who live out West should plan enough travel time to cross the country on the ground. Hawaiian legislators should look into boat schedules. My only regret in taking this action is that some members of Congress live close enough to Washington for this not to affect them -- because, ideally, I'd like to punish all of them.
Congress is unique in one respect -- most of the time, the things they do (and the things they fail to do) have an enormous impact on average Americans' lives, but only very rarely does anything they do have an impact on their own well-being. That is about to change. Think you're too important to take a bus or train, senator? Think again. Think you have a right to fly when you refuse to provide funding for the people who keep the flying public safe? Come Saturday, this right is going to disappear. Don't like it? Tough beans, congressman.
It's a little-known fact that even when Congress is supposed to be "in session," much of the time they define their own work week as "from Tuesday noon to Thursday noon." This obscenely generous work schedule allows them all to fly back to their home districts every single weekend and spend time on their number one priority -- raising campaign cash. I am crying no tears over the fact that placing them all on the no-fly list will make this lax schedule all but impossible until they produce a bill for me to sign. No more five-day weekends and two-day workweeks? Boo freakin' hoo.
Grounding Congress may be a drastic step, but in these times drastic steps are sometimes called for. And I am certain the American people are going to support me on this. In fact, I invite the American people to call up their members of Congress and let them know what they think about taking a month off when there is important work left to be done. Congress is paid by the citizens of this country. And it's time for a performance review.
It is quite literally insane to forbid this government agency from collecting taxes Congress has already passed. This is how you want to solve the deficit? By refusing to collect money? As I said, sheer insanity. We have already lost 200 million dollars in revenues. Coincidentally, this is the same amount of money as the program Congress is haggling over. If Congress does not act soon, the government could lose a billion dollars it is owed. And consumers are not even benefiting, because the airlines all jacked their prices up to collect this windfall of money.
This is no way to run a country. Congress has chosen its priorities -- a month of paid vacation is more important to them than doing the work they have been hired to do. This is unacceptable. The clock is now ticking. Come Saturday, if a bill isn't on my desk awaiting my signature, then all of Congress will be banned from flying until that bill appears.
Congress members will howl, of course. But you know what? I don't care. Go ahead and impeach me -- after you get back from vacation, of course. But mark my words -- you'll be riding Greyhound or Amtrak to get here. I invite all of these outraged members of Congress to make their case to the American people, in the meantime. Interrupt your summer holiday for an hour or so to hold a town hall meeting, and then attempt to explain to your constituents why you should be allowed on an airplane when a monthlong vacation is more important to you than doing your job. Good luck with that.
-- Chris Weigant
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant