The Big Lobotomy: How Republicans made Congress stupid
Last September, as they scrambled to decide on one final ultimatum before shutting down the federal government, Republican House leaders came up with what seemed like an odd demand: to strip their own staff of health care benefits. At the time, staffers reacted to the news with a mixture of despair and disbelief. “It was like getting sucker-punched by your boss,” one aide told me. “Everyone was thinking, What’s the point? How is screwing us going to help you?” Had the Republicans’ desired language passed, congressional personnel would have become the only employees in America whose employer (in their case, the federal government) was explicitly forbidden from contributing to their health care—a blow that, in all likelihood, would have caused most of the best and brightest staffers, and perhaps some lawmakers, to simply hightail it for the door. Some quite conservative members even said as much. Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, in a candid moment later, called the move “political theater” that would do nothing more than catalyze a rapid “brain drain” in Congress. While Sensenbrenner was right, one must appreciate the irony. A debilitating brain drain has actually been under way in Congress for the past twenty-five years, and it is Sensenbrenner and his conservative colleagues who have engineered it. Washington Monthly, June/July/August 2014.