Friday, October 26, 2007

The Invisible Congressman

Ten-term Congressman Michael McNulty is retiring. He represented me for the 12 years I lived in the Capital District.

He's an ethical and honest man. He's a rare pro-life Democrat, which is difficult to confront in his party and a reason why he had a tough primary against environmental activist Lee Wasserman in 1996.

Unfortunately, Congressman McNulty achieved nothing of significance during his 20 years of service. There is no major legislation he advocated or authored. He did not distinguish himself in any national debate. He failed to find one single, solitary issue to make a difference. I don't recall a story of any interest or consequence about him that I posted when running The Empire Page.

It wasn't until the end of my first year as a House press secretary until I saw Rep. McNulty speak on the floor. House offices have multiple televisions on so staffers know exactly what is happening. Maybe I missed a McNulty appearance from time to time. But he clearly was never a presence on the floor, never spoke to his constituents via C-SPAN. He didn't care. He was silent in Washington, D.C. He wasn't elected to be silent. Especially for 20 years.

I hardly recall a mailing from him. Neither do friends who are still his constituents. Members of Congress should always use their franking privilege to communicate with the Americans they represent despite how it's criticized as propaganda. You can judge it as propaganda, or not. And vote accordingly.

After his election to a tenth term and the Democratic takeover of Congress, Rep. McNulty was not positioned to be a full Committee Chairman despite all the retirements after his party was demolished in the 1994 elections.

He was named the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security. What was his position on Social Security reform since he was elected in 1988? I have no idea. President George W. Bush failed spectacularly at reforming Social Security beginning his second term, and Rep. McNulty, as usual, had no presence before or after the national conversation. None.

Gerrymandering is the reason why Michael McNulty could be so lazy and irrelevant. He coasted because he could in a safe district. Contrast him with Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand's efforts. She knows she has to work hard, and her constituents certainly hear from her.

Michael McNulty's legacy will never be difficult to summarize. He was a ten-term Freshman Member of Congress.