A Cow, a Fish Sandwich and Other Wild Things That Have Happened in Congress This Year

Members of Congress never cease to make heads turn and eyebrows raise, and that appears to especially be the case when they're dealing with a global pandemic.

This year has been anything but normal, including in the world of national politics. And as lawmakers in Washington, D.C., continue to be thrown curveballs just months away from a major presidential election, Newsweek took a look back at some of the wackier, more light-hearted moments that have occurred in Congress this year.

5 wacky things lawmakers did this year
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) struggles to put his face mask back on after speaking during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol, May 27 in Washington, DC. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty

Row, row, row your...vote?

Representative Greg Stanton's watery background on his video conference screen appeared fishy to his colleagues in Washington. That's because the freshman Oregon lawmaker was casting a remote vote for the House Transportation Committee from a boat.

"Is Stanton rowing a boat?" Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the panel's chairman, inquired to a colleague sitting nearby during the July 17 hearing.

A spokeswoman for Stanton told AZ Central that the congressman was visiting family in Utah and was, in fact, on a boat. He issued a public explanation and apology, saying he tuned in to most of the hours-long hearing from inside. Video from earlier in the day showed him participating from inside while donning a button-down and jacket.

"There's no getting around it: I messed up and I'm sorry for it. I participated in the five-hour markup mostly from inside and went outside to watch my kids (while listening in the entire time) shortly before the vote was called," Stanton wrote on Twitter.

His explanation failed to prevent criticism from Republicans.

"I guess I'm a sucker for actually showing up to work in Congress this week," Representative Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) tweeted.

"Exactly as I predicted," tweeted Representative Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.). "The democrats enacted 'proxy' and 'remote' voting. These guys are literally phoning it in while half way across the country. This is more like a zoom call now."

Devin Nunes, his mom and a cow

What do Representative Devin Nunes, his mother and a cow all have in common? They're all part of a lawsuit against Twitter brought by the California Republican.

A federal judge ruled in June that Nunes, the top GOP lawmaker on the powerful House Intelligence Committee, cannot sue the social media giant over satirical accounts claiming to be his mother and a cow that he alleged were making defamatory remarks.

Twitter is protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the judge ruled, a blow to Nunes' $250 million suit and attempt to reveal the identity of two accounts: @DevinNunesMom, which has since been suspended, and @DevinCow, which has more than 750,000 followers.

"I have some good moooos for you," @DevinCow wrote. "Oh, wait, it's good for me and not for you."

A face mask—of sorts

As the coronavirus pandemic spread across the United States ahead of a nationwide shutdown, Congress responded by approving nearly $8 billion in early March to help combat the illness. Representative Matt Gaetz responded in his own way.

"Reviewing the coronavirus supplemental appropriation and preparing to go vote," the Florida Republican wrote on Twitter, accompanied by a picture of him wearing a gas mask.

He proceeded to don the mask on the chamber floor, receiving swift criticism from Democrats for appearing to make light of the disease that was killing thousands across the world. Following the death of one of his constituents from the panhandle region of the Sunshine State, Gaetz claimed he was taking the health crisis seriously.

"Made light?!?! I was quite serious," he posted to Twitter. "The threat to Congress is real, as I explained based on travel and habits like selfies and handshakes."

A day later, Gaetz announced he was self-quarantining after possibly being exposed to an outbreak from the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Joe Manchin and an Arby's fish sandwich

Working from home during quarantine took some adjusting, including for members of Congress.

Remembering to hit the mute button on conference calls proved tougher than it seemed for Senator Joe Manchin. Unfortunately for him, it occurred when he happened to be pulling through an Arby's drive-thru one day in April and could be heard by his Democratic colleagues ordering a King's Hawaiian Fish Deluxe sandwich.

"That's what I got busted for. I was ordering away," the West Virginia Democrat told The Wall Street Journal. "It's a big piece of fish and it has a big slice of cheese. They were just jealous they weren't getting the good sandwich."

But some were more surprised to learn that Manchin got fish from the fast-food joint best known for its roast beef sandwiches.

"ALSO, who orders a fish sandwich from Arby's?" asked Politico's Heather Caygle. "#TeamRoastBeef."

Even Arby's went along.

"Senator, this is an Arby's," the company tweeted.

Manchin responded: "Am I going to have to introduce a resolution to get the King's Hawaiian on the menu year-round?"

Louie Gohmert: I got coronavirus from wearing a mask

Representative Louie Gohmert, who refused to practice social distancing around the U.S. Capitol and has derided the use of face masks, claimed he contracted the virus last month because he finally wore a face covering.

"When I have a mask on, I'm moving it to make it comfortable, and I can't help but wonder if that put some germs in the mask," the 66-year-old Texas Republican said in a video posted to social media.

Masks help mitigate the spread of coronavirus, health experts and studies show. There is no evidence to suggest actually donning a face covering could make someone more susceptible to catching the illness.

"Any way, who knows?" Gohmert added.

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