Skip to content

Editor’s Note: Dead dogs, porn stars and brain-eating worms: Congress can barely compete

Lawmakers are surrounded by the surreal spectacle of national politics

Back before the discussion turned to a worm that ate part of his brain, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., was a star witness for the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government at a July 30, 2023 hearing.
Back before the discussion turned to a worm that ate part of his brain, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., was a star witness for the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government at a July 30, 2023 hearing. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Give credit where it is due: Congress is chugging along toward a full reauthorization of the FAA despite multiple potential distractions on and off Capitol Hill. The question is, how long can it stay focused on legislating?

Lawmakers have had to look past the political spectacle of the testimony of a pornographic star at the criminal trial of a former president, the indictment of a House member, the upcoming criminal trial of a senator and an attempted deposing of the speaker of the House.

There was also a sitting governor and potential vice presidential candidate talking about killing her dog, and a presidential candidate and descendant of the Kennedy clan revealing a worm ate part of his brain. 

In a week when the House swore in a new member, Democrat Tim Kennedy of New York, and shrunk the GOP majority further, to 217-213, with five vacancies, the chamber easily passed a one-week FAA extension on May 8, 385-24. 

Members then found more things to bond over when they shortly afterward voted to shoot down a motion to vacate the speakership of Mike Johnson, R-La., tabling that effort by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., on a 359-47 vote. 

It wasn’t all bonhomie in the House. Several measures raised partisan hackles on their way to passage and nearly certain Senate doom. One was the unintentionally — perhaps? Who knows? It’s hard to tell sometimes — funny HOOHAA, or Hands Off Our Home Appliances Act, which squeaked by, 212-195, on May 7.

After spending most of the week in the suspended animation of waiting for a time and amendment agreement, the Senate on May 9 passed a reauthorization of the FAA until 2028 on an 88-4 vote and also passed the House’s short-term extension by unanimous consent. The House is set to finish up the FAA measure the week of May 13, more than half a year after its current reauthorization expired. 

To borrow a term from the early 2000s during debate on the No Child Left Behind education legislation, such accomplishments might appear to be the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” but consider that 217-213 partisan split in the House and the effective 51-49 split in the Senate. Passage of something important and popular by wide margins merits a modest golf clap.

It might also be increasingly difficult to cut through the din. 

One senator, Democrat Bob Menendez of New Jersey, is set to stand trial on corruption charges in New York starting May 13, with jury selection slated to begin that day. 

Another Democrat, Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, was indicted earlier this month on corruption charges and might find himself increasingly occupied with his defense. 

There are more elections around the corner, not just primaries with national implications, like Maryland’s May 14 Senate primaries, but special elections to fill out those lingering House vacancies. 

The criminal trial of former President Donald Trump was defined by the testimony of porn star Stormy Daniels this past week, but there is more to come, including whether Trump might land in jail for contempt of court and the testimony of his pugnacious former fixer, Michael Cohen. 

And who knows if South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem is still going to be talking about shooting her dog? That might not even be disqualifying for her vice presidential ambitions. As more than one person has pointed out: Trump famously hates dogs. 

What else might we find out about Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the independent presidential candidate who is getting on state ballots even as people furiously seek out information about how a worm could have gotten into his brain and had a snack before dying?

The nuts and bolts of passing legislation might offer a refuge from the ruckus.

Jason Dick is editor-in-chief of CQ Roll Call.

Recent Stories

Strange things are afoot at the Capitol

Photos of the week ending May 24, 2024

Getting down on the Senate floor — Congressional Hits and Misses

US-China tech race will determine values that shape the future

What’s at stake in Texas runoff elections on Tuesday

Democrats decry ‘very, very harmful’ riders in Legislative Branch bill