It turns out that debating health care won’t be the only challenge facing members of Congress when they return from their summer recess. While most of the political action moved away from Washington this August, some quieter movement took place on Capitol Hill.
“We’ve got ants. Lots of them,” explained Representative Mike Pence (R-Ind) after seeing what had transpired over the long break. Pence and his peers will now try to quickly find a solution to a distracting problem at a time when many serious issues face Congress. In the summer months, many Americans face ant invasions in their homes when the weather gets warm, and as anyone can attest, they are not always easy to deal with.
So how did all of these ants colonize Washington’s most hallowed law-making chambers?
One source who spoke on the condition of anonymity claimed that “the night before Congress left –in the heat of health care deliberations and several late nights– Senator Reid asked the janitorial staff if they could come back later. Little did he and the rest of us know that the janitorial staff was on vacation for the month too. Senators and Representatives have been known to sneak in some food from time to time like anyone would else would– and it’s not unusual for a half of a sandwich or burger to get left behind.”
The ants were not detected until yesterday, as the security cameras showing the chambers and rooms in the Capitol Building did not indicate anything particularly strange occurring during the summer break. The ants have yet to be identified, but several Congressional aides suggested that they might be part of a world-wide megacolony of Argentine ants that do not attack each other, and consequently have spread across every continent except Antarctica according to new research.
The unexpected arrival of the ants has already been a literary and symbolic boon for politicians and pundits. Today on his radio show, former Arkansas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee joked “I think this is not a partisan issue. I think this is a circumstance where… regardless of ones, uh, political views… waterboarding the ants is entirely appropriate.” Huckabee went on gingerly, explaining his joke by saying that he remembered killing ants in his home as a child by wiping them up with a moist cloth and then flushing them down the toilet.
Even the White House (which is ant-free) joined in on the fun. When asked at the White House’s daily press conference about President Obama’s thoughts about the ants, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs smiled and said to chuckles in the room, “Well you all remember what Obama did to that fly that was buggin’ him a couple months ago, right?” Gibbs was referring to a well-known incident caught on film. During an interview with President Obama earlier this summer, the President successfully swatted and killed a fly on his first attempt– and act he seemed proud of, but was later criticized for by the animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).
On Capitol Hill, however, the reaction was less jovial when discussing the ants. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) wasted no time to voice opposition and exclaimed “Unlike those ants, we’re not going to fall in line for socialist Obamacare that would bankrupt our country and hurt countless American families.” Senator Charles Scumer (D-Ny) countered with an analogy: “Just like an ant colony, Americans want to see Democrats and Republicans working together for the benefit of everyone, and that means passing comprehensive health care legislation. We need to come back from vacation and do the job we were voted into office to do.”
The ant colony analogy in fact has become an idea that Democrats and their liberal base think has tremendous potential to sway public opinion and “reset” the discussion about health care reform . According to sources working for the New York Times, well-known columnists Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd even got into a closed-door altercation in regard to whose “ant colony analogy” column should run first. One compromise proposal on the table is to run both columns on the same day, but first publish Thomas Friedman’s similarly themed “ant colony analogy” essay a day earlier. Freidman’s piece reportedly equates the life cycle of ants with global warming and alternative sources of energy like solar power rather than health care.
But what has perhaps become the most bizarre aspect of the ant invasion has come from the assertion that the ants are clones. This April a species of ant that lives in the Amazon Rainforest was discovered to reproduce by cloning itself.
“We really need to look into this issue. It seems that the Obama administration might be participating in human cloning projects, but first starting with ants. This will mean slavery, just in the same way that we pay taxes,” said Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-Mn). Democrats quickly blasted Bachmann’s remarks, denying the existence of any cloning programs. Fellow Minnesota legislator Senator Al Franken (D) said “You can’t make better comedy than that. These claims of cloning are ridiculous lies. It’s a sideshow.”
Bachmann has already announced plans to introduce a bill in the House that would mirror the Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act introduced in the Senate by Senators Sam Brownback (R-Ks) and Mary Landrieu (D-Ls) in July. The House Bill would prohibit the cloning of ants as well as any other human-ant animal hybrids.
Beyond these concerns, most legislators are just concerned about whether or not they will be able to get back to work for their constituents by Tuesday, the official start date for the new legislative session. At a press conference House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) said “We’re going to do everything we can to get back inside the Capitol and work hard for the American people by Tuesday. This is crucial time when action is needed to create more jobs, cleaner energy sources, and better health care for our country.”
There is no word yet on how the ants will be removed from the Capitol. What appeared to be an extermination crew was spotted walking inside late yesterday afternoon, but their arrival has still not been confirmed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev) office.
At least one member of Congress protested removing the ants. On his Twitter account, Representative Dennis Kuchinich (D-Oh) wrote, “We should co-exist with the ants,” but did not elaborate.
(Additional reporting by Seamus B. Spears)
Photo courtesy of Laura Padgett