WASHINGTON—Saying they don’t want to act too hastily on an issue that deserves a robust and thorough debate, congressional leaders announced Thursday they will wait until after the midterm elections to address the nation’s ongoing plague of large and highly venomous hornets.
With less than a month to go before voters head to the polls, and with 950,000 Americans dead since the unchecked swarms of killer wasps first descended upon the country in July, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers stressed their obligation to put off any legislation until such time as the matter could be given the “full and fair attention” of the U.S. Congress.
“We recognize the serious challenge presented by the scourge of hornets currently blotting out the sun and leaving much of our nation shrouded in darkness,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said during a fundraising breakfast for members of his caucus facing tough reelection campaigns. “This is an important issue that we are committed to addressing. But we owe it to every citizen now suffering a fatal bout of anaphylactic shock brought on by hundreds of simultaneous hornet stings not to act rashly by passing a bill that fails to fully address all aspects of this problem.”
“Until Congress reconvenes later next month, I encourage all Americans to continue putting out vinegar traps and refraining from consuming sugary beverages outdoors,” Reid added.
The intensely destructive insects—an aggressive, three-inch-long invasive species about which little is yet understood—now blanket whole cities and swaths of countryside throughout the Midwest and Great Plains, and are projected to reach the Eastern Seaboard within two weeks and expand westward to California by Election Day. Much of the nation’s infrastructure has been decimated as the hornets gather wood from the exteriors of residences to build massive hives, each of which reportedly weighs thousands of pounds and has led to the collapse of dozens of electrical poles, cell phone towers, and highway overpasses, resulting in frequent blackouts and snarling transportation across the country—all problems that Congress has vowed to deal with as soon as voters cast their ballots next month.
Standing on the steps of the Capitol and talking to reporters through the domed hood of his anti-hornet protective gear, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said he is particularly sympathetic to the needs of hornet victims, remarking that in his own home district, livestock and crops have been completely eradicated, many citizens have been permanently deafened by the incessant buzzing of the flying insects, and nearly every resident must scavenge for food at night when the insects are less active.
“After the elections, we’ll have a better sense of our constituents’ attitudes toward the rapidly spreading plague of lethal hornets, and we’ll have more time to fully deliberate the issue,” Boehner said. “Once we develop a more cohesive overall insect policy and establish a set of achievable goals, we can begin crafting the language of a hornet-relief measure that will hopefully garner bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.”
“I know Americans are frustrated,” he continued. “I would be too if I were confined to my basement between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. every day. But I can assure you that this issue will be among our top priorities in the months ahead.”
Noting heightened sensitivity around the issue, Beltway observers and leading entomologists said that with a crucial midterm election right around the corner and an estimated billion new hornet larvae maturing every 40 minutes, it’s not surprising to see both parties engage in partisan finger-pointing in an attempt to distance themselves from the crisis.
“Republicans have criticized President Obama for his lack of leadership on this issue, and it’s true he has often appeared aloof, particularly after Omaha, Des Moines, and the greater Kansas City metro area were abandoned and ceded to the swarms,” said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. “But it’s fair to say that the president’s effectiveness in tackling the hornet threat has been hampered by a Congress that invariably stymies his best efforts, such as a White House proposal to fumigate the entire state of Oklahoma in a last-ditch attempt to save as many lives as we still can.”
“So really, both parties share some of the responsibility for allowing these insects to become the new dominant species on the North American continent,” he added.
At press time, congressional leaders remarked that because a bill this important should not be passed by lame-duck members who have just been rejected at the polls, an actual vote on comprehensive hornet legislation will have to wait until January, when the new Congress is sworn in.