Wade’s recent post on the Combating Autism Act got me paying more attention to this often discussed (except in House of Representatives) piece of legislation. After ranting a bit in the comments to Wade’s post (Sorry Wade, I’ll keep future rants on my own blog!), I paid a little more attention to what has been going on.
I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of information that was so readily available. I was able to see Rick Santorum and Joe Barton on CNN via YouTube. I heard an interesting interview on my iPod. Heck, even the House and Senate have a wealth of information on-line. I was unpleasantly not surprised at the state of politics I found therein.
Growing disillusioned while conducting my research, I thought back to a time when politics wasn’t so petty and ego driven. To a time when people in Washington cared about doing what was right. To a time when people not only did the right thing, but also engaged in witty banter while walking down hallways. Yes, I thought back to a time when Aaron Sorkin was writing weekly episodes of The West Wing. To a time when 44 minutes of drama was enough to resolve political gridlock (88 minutes over two weeks for a particularly difficult issue). My thoughts eventually took me to this question: What Would Aaron Sorkin Do?
Now I’m no Aaron Sorkin, but I can’t help but think of a few scenarios that he might use to address the current situation. Since he’s a little busy with another writing gig, I’ll pass them on without his review.
- In a last minute attempt to save face, Rep. Joe Barton holds a press conference. He states that he sent an email last week to his entire committee indicating that he is willing to release the Combating Autism Act for a vote but no one replied. Senator Ted Stevens joins Barton at the press conference and goes on to explain that the email was never delivered because the internet tubes are clogged. The committee agrees to release the bill to vote as long as Senator Stevens agrees stop referring to the internet as a “series of tubes“.
- Sorkin updates the story from The West Wing season 2, episode 17, in which an elderly Senator filibusters in order to get a bill passed with money for autism research. In the West Wing version, Senator Stackhouse from Minnesota reads recipes for 8 hours, preventing the Senate from adjourning for a weekend recess. As the filibuster eats into the weekend, the White House staff realizes that the Senator has an autistic granddaughter and rounds up support for adding the autism research money to the bill. Sorkin would make some adaptations as House rules preclude a filibuster. Changing the storyline to keep Barton from going home for Christmas would be interesting.
- In a third possible scenario, Representative Duncan Hunter, Chairman of House Armed Services Committee, submits a bill to the house floor for a vote. The bill allocates $1 to fund upgrades to the US military base in Qumar. Before the vote, a Fellow Californian, and Chairman of Appropriations Committee, attaches an amendment consisting of the entire Combating Autism Act.
- House Republican leaders show up in Barton’s office and tell him to let the bill go or lose their votes for any leadership position for the next session. Again leveraging the script he penned for The Stackhouse Filibuster, Sorkin has President Bush, within earshot of reporters, saying of Rep. Barton “He’s a curmudgeon. A grouchy old crank,” The House leaders and President Bush also force Barton participate in the annual Big Block of Cheese Day. He is assigned to sit down with Mike Bernoski and actually listen to what he has to say.
- In my last scenario, Barton realizes how out of touch he is and releases the Combating Autism bill. In a press conference he says “If 244 Representatives cosponsored the Combating Autism Act and only 14 cosponsored my NIH Reform Bill, maybe something is wrong with the bill or my politics.” Nah, that one is too idealistic for even Sorkin.