Kids Want Congress to Stop Acting Like Kids

Adults and children alike say gridlock over the government shutdown has turned Capitol Hill into kindergarten.

A child stands on the barricade around the Lincoln Memorial on Oct. 2, the second day of the federal government shutdown.
National Journal
Marina Koren
Oct. 11, 2013, 6:26 a.m.

No one un­der the age of 25 can be a mem­ber of Con­gress. But ac­cord­ing to some of the rhet­or­ic of the shut­down de­bate, law­makers aren’t even out of ele­ment­ary school yet.

Nearly two weeks in­to the gov­ern­ment shut­down, Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats re­main locked in a game of sand­box polit­ics, telling each oth­er to stop act­ing like petu­lant chil­dren and throw­ing tan­trums be­cause they can’t get what they want. The gen­er­al pub­lic ap­pears to agree with them: 69 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans say the GOP is act­ing like spoiled chil­dren; 58 per­cent say the same for Demo­crats, ac­cord­ing to a CNN/ORC poll.

The chil­dren of Amer­ica, it seems, don’t mind be­ing com­pared to mem­bers of Con­gress. But they do think law­makers should stop act­ing like them.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4497) }}

“I think it’s really stu­pid and that the Re­pub­lic­ans should just put their big-boy pants on and come to a com­prom­ise,” said Sean Levitt, 13, who was vis­it­ing the na­tion’s cap­it­al from Los Angeles for a class trip Wed­nes­day. “I feel like the Re­pub­lic­ans are just mad at Obama be­cause they’re not get­ting what they want right now. They just don’t have enough con­trol, so they’re just mad.”

Call­ing law­makers’ be­ha­vi­or child­ish can be use­ful, said 12-year-old Lin­coln Smith, be­cause it could make them real­ize they need to start “talk­ing it out and listen­ing to oth­er people’s ideas, not just your own.”

“It is dumb that they’re all fight­ing about — wait, what are they fight­ing about again?” said Smith, who was in town from Utah for a fam­ily va­ca­tion this week.

“Debt lim­it,” his mom Katie re­minded him.

“Oh yeah, the debt lim­it,” he said. “That’s dumb.”

Eight-year-old China Beau­lieu, vis­it­ing from Geor­gia, was also run­ning out of pa­tience with law­makers.

“I don’t like it at all,” she said of the shut­down. “Be­cause I thought Wash­ing­ton, D.C. would be fun.” Her grand­moth­er, Brenda Palmer, said Beau­lieu’s moth­er was fur­loughed from her job at the In­tern­al Rev­en­ue Ser­vice.

Smith and Beau­lieu were among a num­ber of chil­dren roam­ing the Na­tion­al Mall on a windy Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon with their par­ents, their long-planned fam­ily va­ca­tions poor vic­tims of bad tim­ing. Jar­ren Heward, 17, could only cup his hands around his eyes and peer through the glass door in­to the closed Smith­so­ni­an Na­tion­al Air and Space Mu­seum. “It sucks that the gov­ern­ment is do­ing this now but I guess it’s needed, I don’t know, be­cause of the debt ceil­ing,” said the Ari­zona teen, whose fam­ily had been plan­ning the trip for five years. He had one thing to say to Con­gress: “Stop act­ing like kids.”

His broth­er Don, 16, called the shut­down “mad­den­ing” to many people, and said it’s time to start to ne­go­ti­ate. “I don’t like how Obama is act­ing like a little kid like every­body’s say­ing,” he said. “He’s not talk­ing to the Re­pub­lic­ans and ne­go­ti­at­ing.”

The young­est Heward, 14-year-old Brenton, agreed. “I’d tell them to — cause this has happened, be­fore right? And they’ve had to ne­go­ti­ate. But they’re not try­ing. They’re not work­ing at it. So you’ve got to work with each oth­er to put this back in or­der.”

The con­gres­sion­al grid­lock is enough to turn off 4-year-old Brent Ap­pleton from be­com­ing pres­id­ent him­self. “I don’t want the bad guys to be do­ing what they’re do­ing to, try­ing to do to the pres­id­ent,” said Ap­pleton, who is from Mary­land. “They’re try­ing to hurt him.”

Ap­pleton de­clined to do his sig­na­ture Pres­id­ent Obama im­pres­sion, which his moth­er Lisa said is spot-on. Obama, he said, has to “fix” the shut­down “by shar­ing.” As for what he would tell law­makers, Ap­pleton shrugged. “I can’t say any­thing.”

What We're Following See More »
White House Looks Back on bin Laden Mission
10 hours ago
SCOTUS Won’t Hear Appeal of Minimum-Wage Law
11 hours ago

"The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a sweeping constitutional challenge to Seattle’s minimum wage law, in what could have been a test case for future legal attacks on similar measures across the country. In a one-line order, the justices declined to hear a case by the International Franchise Association and a group of Seattle franchisees, which had said in court papers that the city’s gradual wage increase to $15 discriminates against them in a way that violates the Constitution’s commerce clause."

Sanders Looks to Right the Ship in Indiana
12 hours ago

Hillary Clinton may have the Democratic nomination sewn up, but Bernie Sanders apparently isn't buying it. Buoyed by a poll showing them in a "virtual tie," Sanders is "holding three rallies on the final day before the state primary and hoping to pull off a win after a tough week of election losses and campaign layoffs." 

Cruz Delegates Having Second Thoughts?
16 hours ago

As unbound delegates pledged to Ted Cruz watch him "struggle to tread water in a primary increasingly dominated by Trump, many of them, wary of a bitter convention battle that could rend the party at its seams, are rethinking their commitment to the Texas senator."

Puerto Rico to Default on Payment Today
16 hours ago

"The confrontation between debt-swamped Puerto Rico and its creditors is intensifying as the U.S. territory will default on payments due Monday, deepening the island's financial crisis and placing additional pressure on Congress to intervene." The amount of the default is estimated at $422 million.