Fiscal cliff deal brought out rhetorical flourishes from lawmakers

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“We just have to take a deep breath and put our egos aside for this country’s sake and make those compromises that allow us to still stand tall. I am only 5 feet
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Not since the attempt to impeach President Bill Clinton in 1998 has C-SPAN been as popular as it was this past week as we watched the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate negotiate a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, fight over emergency funds and bid farewell to certain members.

If you missed the coverage, you’ll be glad to know that California’s representatives have been right in the thick of the action, making colorful statements on the public record.

On the issue of whether to send $60 billion in aid to victims of Superstorm Sandy, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, showed a real understanding of Americans, admitting, “They ignore government. They don’t like government. They don’t want this; they don’t want that. But in times like this, in time of emergency, is really when we prove our worth.”

First, outgoing Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-San Diego, offered a goodbye: “After having been out of the Congress for five years, they returned me here to the House as the 50th District, it being that classic environmental community, recycled congressmen when it came to my election. … I am going to miss a lot of faces around here in Washington, but as a San Diegan, let me assure you that I will not miss the weather.”

As for avoiding the fiscal cliff, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., pointed out that our big state would suffer far worse than piddly little states.

“Let me tell you very quickly why it is so important to my home state. A lot of my colleagues roll their eyes when I tell them we have 38 million people in California. My friend from Wyoming, how many people in Wyoming? There are 562,785, and we have 38 million people. … Almost as many people as reside in the state of Wyoming were about to lose their unemployment insurance [in California].”

Boxer later implored her colleagues, “We just have to take a deep breath and put our egos aside for this country’s sake and make those compromises that allow us to still stand tall. I am only 5 feet, so that’s hard, but you get the point.”

Using less literal metaphors, Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Los Angeles, said, “Tonight in Times Square, hundreds of thousands of people will be there at midnight to watch that ball drop, but here in Congress, we’ve also dropped the ball.”

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Riverside, claimed that whatever his vote, “I won’t do it thinking we’ve accomplished anything here today other than the smallest finger in a dike that, in fact, has hundreds of holes in it.” He later voted against the deal.

But perhaps the best public statement this week came from U.S. Chaplain Dr. Barry C. Black, who opened the Senate session Jan. 1 with a prayer, starting with “almighty God, source of strength for stressed-out emotions and strained minds.” He went on to hope, “May the sparks from their bipartisan cooperation ignite flames of unity that will illuminate the inevitable darkness to come.”

Amen.

Melissa Griffin’s column runs each Thursday and Sunday. She also appears Mondays in “Mornings with Melissa” at  6:45 a.m. on KPIX (Ch. 5). Email her at mgriffin@sfexaminer.com.

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