The media got around this week to covering the worst-kept secret in Montana politics, that our sole representative in the House, Ryan Zinke, has been absent from the job almost from the beginning of the Congressional session. After receiving a lot of flak for voting to ease the sale of public lands, our brave SEAL has retreated from his duties, going so far as to wander around the House floor as one reporter noted, “living if not his best life, at least a better life.”
Zinke has gone so far as to refuse to respond to the Montana press asking why he’s been AWOL from his duties and a number of Montanans have reported that his staff is so removed from their duties that voice mail boxes are full and calls are not returned in the Congressman’s office. This tidbit from ABC FOX today shows just how bad it’s become:
Banville also says it’s odd that the congressman has gone silent for so long but that Senator Daines has said his staff has picked up some of the work of helping constituents get basic government services.
“I certainly understand not wanting to do something that would be perceived as a conflict of interest of his future job from his current job. But he’s choosing not to vote right now. He’s choosing not to be the public face of Montana in the House of Representatives. The reason we don’t have a representative right now, it’s not that we don’t have one, he’s just choosing not to do the work,” said Banville.
That’s simply an astonishing admission. With three representatives in the entire Congress, Montana is being shortchanged, with one of our Senators picking up the slack for Congressman Zinke and his staff, who are no doubt busy polishing his knife collection or fluffing his resume for the move to Interior instead of doing the work of the people of our state.
While casting votes may not be a critical function in the House, the constituent work each member of Congress should perform, from ensuring that veterans receive care to working to nominate students to service academies, is important. It’s reprehensible that a self-proclaimed small government conservative who rails against waste and spending would continue to collect paychecks and fund his office when those tasks are not being done.
While it’s hard to say exactly how much tax money Zinke is wasting by not working, his Congressional office does not run cheaply and we’re all on the hook for those expenses while Zinke saunters around the House chambers not doing his job. Efforts to find out how much Zinke is paying his staff were unsuccessful because, as you might expect, no one answered the phone when I asked.
We’ve learned in the past few months (though not from the Montana press) that Congressman Zinke is not a man who believes in paying his debts, but it’s not unreasonable for us to expect him to do the job we’re paying him to do—or to have the decency to resign from the office so Montana can begin the process of electing his replacement.
It’s time for the Montana press to call out Congressman Zinke for his dereliction of duty and for the Congressman to, for once, put the interests of Montana ahead of his own. Wouldn’t that be the most amazing of the flip flops that have defined his career?