Capitol Hill's Deaf Ears

It’s not very often that those who are self employed can take a true vacation. Its one thing to steal a long weekend here or there occasionally, but to pack up the entire family and spend nearly two weeks literally three thousand miles from ones clients is another matter entirely. Thankfully, due to remote administration capability, I was able to pack up my family and head back east for the first time in more than a decade.

In June my family and I flew into Washington DC, then eventually drove to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and then on to my hometown on Long Island New York. The entire trip was a new experience for my children who have lived their lives in the bleak and arid desert of Arizona (Mexico North). It is on the DC leg of my vacation that this eye opening incident occurred.

Aside from seeing every monument and museum we thought we had time for in DC (which is practically impossible in five days time), a tour of Congress was arranged for me by way of a Republican Congressman Jim Saxton of New Jersey.  We met in the congressman’s office building and at slightly past two o’clock my family was led in a group into the tunnel systems which connect the congressman office buildings and the Capitol. These tunnels, which lead underground into Congress, are quite extensive and contain shops that provide for every conceivable need of a congressman (dinning, postal service, laundry, etc). There is even a train system in these tunnels which leads to the Library of Congress. But perhaps the most obvious aspect of the tunnels was the abundance of security checkpoints.

Considering the numerous security checks throughout Washington DC, I can honestly say that I am thankful that no terrorist has been caught with a weapon up his arse.

It was at the initial security checkpoint prior to entering the tunnels that the congressman’s aide tried to make the long wait easier on us visitors by chatting. After discussing something with the Pakistani family that was in our two family group, the aide turned her attention to my family. I suspect this gesture did not go quite the way she hoped it would.

Among the aide’s first questions were where I lived and what I did for a living. I told her we lived in Arizona and, to be fair, I told her that I wrote political commentary. As if on cue, Fox News began reporting about the Senate Immigration compromise on a nearby television. Sensing a potentially productive segue I remarked on how Arizona’s Senators were taking a lot of heat for their involvement in the Senates Immigration Compromise.

Apparently I touched upon a lively conversation topic on the Hill among congressional aides. My guide began to tell me of the hundreds of faxes Congressman Saxton’s office receives daily related to the Immigration bill; a stack of faxes “two or three inches deep,” she remarked. But she assured me that the three inch stack was nothing compared the quantity of faxes her fellow aides said were being received by those Senators directly associated with the Immigration Compromise.

Naturally I had to ask what Congressman Saxton thought of the near 500 faxes a day he was receiving from Americans who felt betrayed by their representation. Her reply was that the faxes were immediately recycled and that the Congressman never sees them.

I may have been pleasant on the outside but I was truly livid on the inside.

I asked (calmly I might add) if she was aware that people are spending between $19 and $99 to bulk fax the Senate and the House to have their voices heard. No. She explained that this really wasn’t the Congressman’s issue and that he was focused more on the interests of his district in New Jersey and his obligations to our soldiers fighting in the Middle East.

Already knowing the answer, I asked if the good Congressman had a vote in this great Senate Compromise when it reached the House. Yes.  

I then asked if it was not irresponsible for the Congressman not to understand what it was he was voting for or against especially when he was receiving greater than ten thousand faxes a month from concerned Americans across the nation. No answer.

I lectured that the Congressman’s time might be finite but he employs aides to read and keep him informed of matters that the American people hold important. I explained that the Congressman was directed by the Constitution to hear the voice of the people and answer their call on every occasion.

At this point, as my tone changed slightly, my kid’s ears perked up and, I think, my wife wanted to crawl under a rock. The Pakistani’s took notice as did those in front and behind us in line.

I continued by explaining that hospitals were closing down in Phoenix, welfare was over burdened, and crime was outrageously high as a result of in the influx of millions of illegal aliens pouring across the border because congress was unwilling to live to its primary duty. I explained about the drop houses in all Phoenix neighborhoods that pack in 50-100 illegal aliens for days before transporting them deeper into America. I told her of areas in Phoenix that I couldn’t go simply because I didn’t speak the language or have the ability to read the signs of the stores. I mentioned and explained Matricula Consular cards, banks giving home loans to illegal aliens, and American business closing down because they simply couldn’t compete with competitors who hire illegal aliens below market wages. Lastly I informed her of the National Guard being ordered to retreat on American soil to an unknown quantity of Mexicans along the Arizona border.

To my complete surprise I was given the impression that everything I said was news to her. Sadly I am forced to assume that Congressman Saxton, the man who votes for the American people, is equally under informed as well.

Needless to say I suspect this pleasant, upbeat, and well meaning aide was thankful when security made me empty my pockets into a bucket take off my shoes and walk through the metal detector.

I only had to correct my guide’s history lesson to my kids once or twice (my 10 year old daughter actually caught the first factual error) as we hastily were rushed through the over packed halls of Capitol Hill. We witnessed the hypocrisy and waste of the House as they spend nearly thirty minutes swearing in and taking perhaps three minutes for about a dozen people to agree to adjourn until Monday (incidentally they let you keep your shoes but literally take everything else from you before entering the gallery). And then we were led back to Congressman Saxton’s office where my pleasant guide must have privately sighed in relief to see me go.

I have no doubt that the view of this congressional aide represents the typical business mentality of America’s Congress.  Equally I have no doubt that many of the people in the House and Senate treat the people’s voice with elitist contempt. The proof is the fact that this Immigration Compromise, despite the clear voice of the American people, is still being discussed in the Senate and lauded by an out of touch President as a bi-partisan breakthrough. If the American people do not want an immigration compromise then Congress has no right to wasting time discussing it-let alone trying to sneak it through.

But, I suppose that following the Constitution — actually representing those who elected them — would mean that those in Congress must erase their “Divine Right to Rule”… at least in their own minds. As the attempt to bypass the will of the American people continues to unfold in the media, I’m forced to suspect that (short of violence), the needed mindset won’t happen anytime soon. After all, as one congressional aide clearly illustrated, our voice is recycled before it ever gets to be heard.