Congress can’t be allowed to emulate ‘Animal House’

As a mother of two, I didn’t want to look up the meaning of a new sexual term that, thanks to the antics of former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.), sent lots of people running to the Urban Dictionary. I decided to keep my innocence and leave new vocabulary to others.

But it should never have come this far anyway. It was reported earlier this week that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office was notified in October of last year about Congressman Massa’s unprofessional and perhaps illegal behavior. Why didn’t she do anything about it then?

Apparently the Democrats learned nothing from the Mark Foley debacle in 2006. I believed then, and still do now, that the Republican Speaker should have resigned. Capitol Hill is not a frat house and unethical behavior toward staff should never be tolerated. The fact that Foley was targeting interns makes his scandal even more disgusting but, make no mistake, twenty-something staff need to be protected too.

To me, as a 21-year-old staffer many years ago on Capitol Hill, a sitting member of Congress was a rock star. My fellow staffers and interns laughed at all his jokes and believed everything he said. I may have been more naïve than some, but I was not alone in the “hero worship” that staff gives to sitting members.

This relationship is usually healthy for idealistic staffers but in the cases in which members of Congress of either party use their status to use “sexually explicit language,” or to “grope” staff, there needs to be disciplinary action taken immediately.

Of course, tolerance of bad congressional behavior is not new but it is offensive. Corporations go to great lengths to protect against lawsuits for sexual harassment but Congress seems to have missed the memo. “Animal House” office antics should have died with former Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-Texas).

Republican or Democrat, man or woman, members of Congress need not only to live by the same rules as everyone else but should set a higher standard. Parents don’t send their kids off to Washington to get that kind of education. Nancy Pelosi is the CEO of the House of Representatives. Her job is to run her chamber with integrity — and she proclaimed upon becoming Speaker her House would be the most ethical in history. She blew it.

Speaker Pelosi owes the American people a full accounting of what she knew, when she knew it, and why she chose to be indifferent toward Congressman Massa’s conduct. It’s the least she could do for any parent preparing to send his or her child to Capitol Hill.

From Penny Nance, CEO, Concerned Women for America, Washington

Health reform good for Mass., nation

Our country is on the cusp of historical change: We are closer than ever to passing comprehensive health reform.

I urge Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) to push hard for passage of national health reform because it’s good for Massachusetts and it’s good for the country.

National health reform will allow us to continue to build on the gains we’ve made with our landmark health reform law in Massachusetts. It will make insurance premiums more affordable for 75,000 Massachusetts families, cut the cost of prescription drugs for Bay State seniors, and give tax credits to 70,000 of the state’s small businesses to offset the costs of offering health insurance to their workers. It will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.

According to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, 63 percent of Americans want Congress to pass national health reform. We’ve come too far to turn back now.

Keep moving forward on national health reform so we can be proud of our elected officials and trust that it’s not business as usual in Washington.

From Julia Christopher, Norwood, Mass.