Members of Congress can’t agree on much of anything these days — but on Wednesday, they made an exception for Ben Affleck, lavishing praise on the actor-director for his work in Africa.
Affleck testified before an unusually packed Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the Democratic Republic of the Congo, highlighting his work with the Eastern Congo Initiative, a nonprofit advocacy organization he founded.
Less than a minute into the hearing, Committee Chairman Bob Menendez thanked Affleck, or as he and other senators pronounced it “Aff-lack,” for “clearly drawing so much attention” to the issue, saying Affleck will be “long remembered as a serious, thoughtful activist.”
And Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, whose wife, Cindy McCain, works with Affleck, had a running banter with the actor, at one point interrupting fellow Republican Sen. James Risch, who was complimenting Affleck on his selflessness, saying dryly, “I can assure you, it’s also partially about him.”
“That’s funny. I’ve always considered Senator McCain the real celebrity. That’s one thing he and I have in common,” Affleck shot back, garnering laughter from committee members and attendees.
Affleck is by no means the first celebrity to appear before Congress — George Clooney had staffers trailing him through Dirksen two years ago — in what is essentially a mutually beneficial situation. Celebrities get to tout pet projects and causes, while lending a megaphone to congressional issues that would often be overlooked otherwise.
And despite the, at times, lighthearted interactions — Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts called him a “hometown hero” because of his Boston roots — Affleck and other speakers, including Russell Feingold, a former senator and current special envoy to the Great Lakes region of Africa and the DRC, delved into what could be done to help the African country that has dealt with disease and nearly constant violence as groups fought over natural resources, including gold and copper.
Feingold called on the United States to boost its financial support of the Congo’s elections, which are expected to place between now and 2016.
Although Affleck began his testimony to a shower of camera-shutter clicks and some humbleness — noting that “to state the obvious,” he is “not a Congo expert” — he did have a handful of suggestions for Congress and the Obama administration.
His proposals ranged from maintaining support for Feingold and Secretary of State John Kerry, whom Affleck met with earlier in the day, to calling on the U.S. Agency for International Development to up its economic development in the country.
What We're Following See More »
"Two chief fundraisers for the Clinton Foundation pressed corporate donors to steer business opportunities to former President Bill Clinton as well, according to a hacked memo published Wednesday by WikiLeaks. The November 2011 memo from Douglas Band, at the time a top aide to Mr. Clinton, outlines extensive fundraising efforts that Mr. Band and a partner deployed on behalf of the Clinton Foundation and how that work sometimes translated into large speaking fees and other paid work for Mr. Clinton."
"The Obama administration on Tuesday called on U.S. states to ban agreements prohibiting many workers from moving to their employers’ rivals, saying it would lead to a more competitive labor market and faster wage growth. The administration said so-called non-compete agreements interfere with worker mobility and states should consider barring companies from requiring low-wage workers and other employees who are not privy to trade secrets or other special circumstances to sign them."
House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz plans to spend "years, come January, probing the record of a President Hillary Clinton." Chaffetz told the Washington Post: “It’s a target-rich environment. Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good.”
Priorities USA, the super PAC aligned with the Clinton campaign, which has already gotten involved in two Senate races, is now expanding into House races. The group released a 30 second spot which serves to hit Donald Trump and Iowa Rep. Rod Blum, who is in a tough race to win re-election in Iowa's first congressional district. The super PAC's expansion into House and Senate races shows a high level of confidence in Clinton's standing against Trump.