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Americans to Congress: You Work for Us

In another life I once had the dubious honor of having to testify before the state legislature representing my employer, a state agency. It was never fun.

One of the agency’s missions was promoting alternative energy sources, so it was not unusual to have a particular pro-nuclear state senator badger and bully me and my colleagues for not doing enough to promote the next nuclear plant our utilities wanted to build.

My instructions were to be respectful, just make our points and not argue with the senators on the committee, no matter how abusive they became. And some were abusive, insulting.  I’ve always regretted that, because the legislators are supposed to work for the citizens who pay their salaries, although an administrative agency is, in part, a creation and extension of the legislature. But what if you’re just a private citizen, an expert asked to testify at a hearing?

Here’s how one private citizen reacted to the abusive Don Young (R. Alaska):

Friday’s exchange came in a hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee, where Brinkley testified that the country should protect and preserve the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas exploration.

Young, who supports drilling in ANWR, sparked the fireworks when he called Brinkley’s testimony “garbage” and then mistakenly called Brinkley “Dr. Rice.”

“It’s Dr. Brinkley. Rice University is a university,” Brinkley said. “I know you went to Yuba (Community) College.”

Visibly angry, Young shot back, “I’ll call you anything I want to call you when you’re in that chair. You just be quiet.”

Brinkley retorted: “You don’t own me. I pay your salary. I work for the private sector and you work for the taxpayer.”

Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., stepped in to break up the argument, which was recorded by C-SPAN and since has drawn thousands of online viewers.

With Congress so unresponsive to the country’s needs and public approval down around 9 percent, I’m surprised we don’t see more of this.

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Americans to Congress: You Work for Us

 

In another life I once had the dubious honor of having to testify before the state legislature representing my employer, a state agency.  One of the agency’s missions was promoting alternative energy sources, so it was not unusual to have a particular pro-nuclear state senator badger and bully me and my colleagues for not doing enough to promote the next nuclear plant our utilities wanted to build.

My instructions were to be respectful, just make our points and not argue with the senators on the committee, no matter how abusive they became. And some were abusive, insulting.  I’ve always regretted that, because the legislators are supposed to work for the citizens who pay their salaries, although an administrative agency is, in part, a creation and extension of the legislature. But what if you’re just a private citizen, an expert asked to testify at a hearing?

Here’s how one private citizen reacted to the abusive Don Young (R. Alaska):

Friday’s exchange came in a hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee, where Brinkley testified that the country should protect and preserve the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas exploration.

Young, who supports drilling in ANWR, sparked the fireworks when he called Brinkley’s testimony “garbage” and then mistakenly called Brinkley “Dr. Rice.”

“It’s Dr. Brinkley. Rice University is a university,” Brinkley said. “I know you went to Yuba (Community) College.”

Visibly angry, Young shot back, “I’ll call you anything I want to call you when you’re in that chair. You just be quiet.”

Brinkley retorted: “You don’t own me. I pay your salary. I work for the private sector and you work for the taxpayer.”

Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., stepped in to break up the argument, which was recorded by C-SPAN and since has drawn thousands of online viewers.

With Congress so unresponsive to the country’s needs and public approval down around 9 percent, I’m surprised we don’t see more of this.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley