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Rolly: Chaffetz personifies the dark comedy that is the Republican Congress

Published May 9, 2017 2:29 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Viewing the photo last week of Rep. Jason Chaffetz returning to the House floor from his taxpayer-subsidized foot surgery to cast a vote that would kick millions of Americans off their health insurance aroused several images.

With his beaming demeanor as he heroically left his hospital bed for a chance to repeal "Obamacare," I thought of the introduction to the old "Superman" shows: "It's a bird, it's a plane … "

But a more personalized motto for Chaffetz seemed appropriate. So I thought of "Never fear — Hair Boy is here," a reference to the former kicker's hair flips when he would boot a field goal for Brigham Young University.

A darker thought came to mind, however, and it raised a question: Have these recent Republican-led Congresses been the worst in U.S. history?

I don't know. We've had some bad ones. One of the more colorful stories in congressional lore is the one about South Carolina Rep. Preston Brooks walking into the Senate chambers in 1856 and beating Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner nearly to death with a walking stick after Sumner had given a fiery anti-slavery speech.

Then there was the infamous "Do Nothing Congress" that earned the scorn of President Harry Truman in the 1940s, and, before that, the isolationist Congress in the 1930s that frustrated President Franklin Roosevelt by insisting on neutrality as the world was burning up all around it.

But these latest Congresses have been consistently ridiculous.

Vowing to oppose every initiative proposed by then-President Barack Obama, the GOP majority thwarted the country's ability to move forward on many fronts — domestically and internationally.

The obsession to dump Obamacare has been almost pathological, with the House bringing up the repeal bill while other issues badly needed serious attention.

When the House finally, albeit barely, passed the so-called repeal-and-replace legislation last week, the giddy Republicans beamed, back-slapped and high-fived.

They missed one glaring fact: That bill will never become law, and Obamacare remains in place.

Senate Republicans, including Utah's Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, have said the Senate will not approve the House measure.

So why the celebration? One commentator said it was like hitting a single in the first inning of a baseball game and having the team swarm the field as if it had just won the World Series.

Chaffetz, one of the most partisan knaves of one of the most divisive congressional bodies ever, was almost like the comic relief in the whole melodrama. Wearing a boot on his surgically repaired foot, reminding us all of the wounded warrior that he is, the Utahn was sure to get that photo op.

Earlier, he said he would not run for another term and suggested he may resign before his current one ends. But, hey, once that vote was on the floor and it was going to be close, Chaffetz could not pass up one more chance for glory, personifying what this entire Republican Congress is all about.

Chaffetz, of course, says he wants to spend more time with his family. The cynic in me wonders if he just doesn't have the stomach to use his bully pulpit as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to investigate President Donald Trump's GOP administration like he so enthusiastically did Obama's Democratic one.

Chaffetz even had posted on that committee's website the names and faces of Obama officials who had retired, resigned or been fired, taking credit for those dismissals by displaying what I once described as his trophy wall.

But when the pressure to investigate the Trump team kept mounting, it was time to spend more time at home ­­— except for that one last hurrah.

And the photo op.







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