The Washington Post broke a story last night that is deeply troubling. Apparently while the Republicans were trying to pass the rule to dismantle the Office of Congressional Ethics, they also resurrected a rule from 1876 that allows a member of Congress to introduce an amendment to reduce an individual federal employee’s salary down to one dollar. According to the article, “a majority of the House and Senate would still have to approve any such amendment,” but it still sends a chilling message to government employees.
One of the best things the United States did to prevent corruption is make a civil service of nonpartisan federal employees who work for the best interest of the country, regardless of who is in office. Making them beholden politicians only creates pathways to “mischief,” as one source quoted in the article said. Could employees who tell politicians things they don’t want to hear have their salaries reduced? Could they be targeted because members of Congress don’t like the programs they work on?
It’s a terrible message to send to civil employees who may not wear a uniform but still serve our country. This makes me worry that some of our best people in government, who could make much larger salaries in the private sector, might consider leaving.
Confirmation hearings update: Politico has a list of when confirmation hearings will take place. Spoiler: Several are happening on Wednesday, January 11, the same day President-elect Donald Trump is expected to hold a press conference. One thing I want to mention is that there’s certainly a conversation in some circles here in Washington questioning “if this appointee is blocked, who is the person behind them?” Just something to think about while watching this play out.
Russian hacking: Meanwhile, the testimony at the Armed Services Committee on the foreign cyber-attacks was pretty interesting. We learned that the intelligence community does hope to release a report to the public about Russia next week. The Washington Post broke another story last night detailing some of the things we might see in that report that support the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia was involved, including evidence that senior government leaders in Russia were celebrating Trump’s win. We also learned a little about the threats facing the United States in terms of cyber-attacks. They also talked extensively about Russian propaganda—something I may tackle at a later date. (Side note: If you don’t subscribe to The Washington Post, please consider! Also, they offer free subscriptions for .edu, .mil and .gov email addresses.)
Here are a couple clips you might be interested in. First, you have to see Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on fire:
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) also had an interesting exchange worth watching:
(Something to note in these committee hearings: A lot of times members of Congress ask questions they know the answer to because they want to “build a record” of information as they get ready to propose legislation. This was something I didn’t realize until recently.)
Muslim registry: Senate Democrats are preparing to introduce a law that would forbid making a registry based on religion, age, race, gender, national origin or nationality.
Polite conversations: Finally, I want to end the week with something encouraging I saw on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that reaffirmed my belief that a site like Politics in Polite Company is sorely needed. John Dickerson compiled an outstanding panel of people: JD Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy, Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns, Diane Guerrero, author of In the Country We Love, and Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, author of Muslim Girl: Coming of Age. What ensued was an extremely thoughtful and polite conversation that gave me a lot of hope.
I make a conscious effort to share good journalism. News organizations respond to their audience and thus it is incredibly important to share, talk about and compliment the type of coverage you want to see more of in the world. If they know that’s what people will watch/read, they’ll allocate more resources toward it.
With that in mind, here’s the segment.
The most poignant moment in this for me was when Isabel Wilkerson said perhaps we should start finding our similarities because we already know our differences. “Our hearts beat the same and the things we want are so similar,” Wilkerson said.
It reinforces something a lot of us already know. You can take a group of very diverse people and have a really thoughtful conversation that can elevate the debate.
In gearing up to launch this site, I’ve had the normal jitters—mainly after logging onto Twitter and seeing the dumpster fire of discourse. Is trying to start a site dedicated to polite and thoughtful discussion of politics delusional?
This segment, though, reinforced to me that yes, it is not only possible, but it is incredibly rewarding and productive when it happens. And you know what? You all have reinforced this to me this week as well. Thank you for your compliments, your stories and for sharing this site.
As Wilkerson so eloquently suggested, let’s start focusing on our shared humanity. Also, let’s not mistake “being polite” for “sitting on the couch.” I reject the idea that manners and political engagement are at odds with each other.
It feels like you do, too.
A little post-script here: I plan on taking the weekend off. I’ll post again on Monday morning. I also need to thank my dear friend, Liz, who has been copy-editing these pieces for me. I’m terrible at catching my own mistakes, so when I launched this, I asked her if she’d help me. She’s a former copy editor and quickly agreed to double-check my work. We all need an editor and I wanted to publicly thank both her and my friend, Jenn, who helped edit the Russia piece. Thank you!