Heard on the Hill

Clean up Congress? Maybe not. But they’re still breaking out the soap

Bipartisan veteran members trade in political differences for soft bristle brushes at war memorials

The Friday morning cleaning crowd was 16 members strong. (Courtesy Michael Waltz)

Soft bristle brushes, a sudsy solution and Democratic Rep. Jimmy Panetta manning the water hose — that was the scene Friday morning at the Vietnam War Memorial when a bipartisan group of veteran members came together to wash it clean.

The process is “really strict,” said Republican Rep. Mike Bost. A brush that even grazes the ground gets its own “high-pressure” wash before it can touch the wall again.

Rep. Michael Waltz convened the troops when he pitched the idea of the clean-up to the For Country Caucus, which he co-founded earlier this year along with fellow veterans Panetta, Don Bacon and Chrissy Houlahan. It was a “no-brainer” for those that participated, he said, while August recess travel conflicts made the early morning commitment a challenge for the rest.

The effort was inspired by what Waltz described as weeks of “so much acrimony — whether it’s over tweets or accusations of racism or Mueller,” referring to the former special counsel who testified last week on the Hill. The Florida Republican hopes that military veterans, trained to always put the mission first, can succeed where others have not.

“Out in combat, all those differences melt away,” he said.

Of the 16 lawmakers who turned out Friday morning, most were men, but Mikie Sherrill and Elaine Luria, both Democrats, were also on duty. The caucus members are hardly the first to have the idea — volunteer groups often hand-wash the wall in the summertime.

So what’s next for the fledging For Country Caucus? More bucket work, for one. Look for the lawmakers at the Korean War Memorial the week before Veterans Day, wielding their sudsy brushes.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.