Matt Gaetz and Nancy Pelosi are this month’s most useless people in Washington

Legislation on stock trading and same sex marriage postponed while spending bill passes

Eric Garcia
Washington DC
Monday 03 October 2022 18:16 BST
House speaker Nancy Pelosi
House speaker Nancy Pelosi (REUTERS)

Congress is now officially out until after the midterm election ends. The Senate finished its session after doing the bare minimum on Thursday by passing a continuing resolution to keep the government open until December 16.

The House followed suit on Friday by passing the same legislation. Their bill included funding to assist Ukraine, as well as disaster relief to help rebuild Florida and other coastal states in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

The Senate, of course, left plenty of work on the table, such as permitting reform and legislation to codify same-sex marriage. The delay on this latter piece of legislation was done largely so it could not be used as a campaign cudgel against Republicans.

But perhaps an even more galling delay came in the form of House leadership holding off a vote on legislation to ban members of Congress from trading stocks until after the election. It would make sense if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi decided to delay the vote because she believed that — like same-sex marriage — it had a better shot of passing after the election. But that was not the case. Ever since Business Insider profiled how many flaws exist in the system that was meant to prevent members of Congress from trading stocks with the information they receive as lawmakers, Pelosi has gritted her teeth even even as she seemed to open the door to potential legislation.

Back in February she said, “If that’s what members want to do, then that’s what we will do.” Punchbowl News reported a senior aide saying that she “never really wanted a vote on this anyway.”

Some have wondered whether Pelosi’s husband Paul’s stock trading might have something to do with her reticence. But a more plausible reason was that she simply didn’t have the votes, especially given that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer came out against it, and Blue Dog Democrat Stephanie Murphy told Punchbowl that frontline Democrats would not be comfortable voting for such legislation.

That rationale makes no sense, given that Abigail Spanberger, one of the most endangered Democrats in a swing district in Virginia and a moderate, is the leading voice on banning members from trading stocks.

Pelosi notoriously doesn’t bring votes to the floor unless she is sure her bill can pass, so her hesitancy can be justified. But if she genuinely wanted to see this legislation through, she had months to allow members to craft it and even use it to insulate some Democrats from criticism in a tough election — or she could have killed it earlier. Slow-walking the bill is a stunning display of cowardice from a House Speaker known for not backing down from hard fights.

But Pelosi’s cynicism pales in comparison to that of Representative Matt Gaetz.

On Sunday evening, while Floridians assessed the damage of Hurricane Ian, Gaetz tweeted, “On behalf of my fellow Florida Man in grave need of assistance….Just send us like half of what you sent Ukraine.” Yet, literally two days before, he voted against a continuing resolution that included aid to Ukraine and disaster relief money.

Only ten Republicans voted for the continuing resolution and none of them hailed from Florida. And when the bill went to a vote for the Senate, neither of Florida’s Senators voted for it: Rick Scott voted against the continuing resolution and Marco Rubio was not present, which is somewhat justifiable given he was back in the state.

But what makes Gaetz’s move so galling and so inexcusable is that he knew that the bill would pass, and he knew that Congress was willing to help his state. Yet he decided to posture to make himself look like a purist, while gladly accepting the money.

So, as Congress left for campaign season, Pelosi and Gaetz both earned my “most useless people in Washington” prize for October. Hope it was worth it.

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