ICYMI: Good things happened in Washington this week

Posted at 2:37 PM, Mar 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-06 22:02:42-05

Not that this isn’t normally the case, but it was a particularly testy week in D.C. Netanyahu’s visit, DHS funding, Obamacare’s date in court and Hillary’s email account all added to this week’s chapter in the saga of government dysfunction. It leaves you wondering, will Congress ever stop using shutdowns as a bargaining chip? Will the Supreme Court kill ACA? Can’t we all just get along?! The answer to all of those — probably not. But the good news is that there was some, well, good news this week -- although it would have been easy to miss. 

The headlines of the day can be hard to cut through. We’re living in a time where “Everything We Know About Hillary Clinton’s Email” is an actually useful primer to discussing the news. Where we’re keeping tabs on Rand Paul’s enthusiasm for Bibi. We can almost expect the news to make us angry, and maybe we should be. But it's exhausting. Politics can be dark, y’all.

So, to celebrate the end of a tumultuous week, here are a few buried, anger-free news items. Well, I’m sure you could get angry about it, but try not to, OK?

Freighting Fido

In a rare show of bipartisanship, the House approved steady Amtrak funding for the next four years. The Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act, which passed on a 316 to 101 vote Wednesday, aims to force Amtrak into shoring up its performance. Reforms include separating heavily used routes connecting Boston, New York and D.C. from the railroad’s Northeast Corridor. The idea is that would allow Amtrak to reinvest in improving train speeds rather than bankrolling less popular routes in the corridor. The bill also also gives 19 states more say in the local budget and services.

All of that is well and good, but the real story here is that the bill also allows dogs and cats to travel on the trains! Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., added the provision for his totally adorable French bulldog, Lily, whom he often travels with.

Maybe this lift on pet bans means more lawmakers can bring their furry counterparts with them to Washington. Just think, Rep. Barbara Mikulski could bring a bulldog in from Maryland.

Image caption here

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, left, bulldog, right (Flickr Creative Commons/Wikimedia Commons)

Or Sen. Harry Reid could travel with a swagged-out pooch:

Image caption here

Sen. Harry Reid, left, cool dog, right (Flickr Creative Commons/Getty)

Perhaps even Rep. John Boehner could take a kitty for a ride:

Image caption here

House Speaker John Boehner, left, orange cat, right (Getty/Flickr Creative Commons)

Sled free or die

A group of true patriots organized what is, perhaps, one of the most unusual acts of civil disobedience that you’ve heard of in a while – a sled-in. Dozens of people showed up at the Capitol to take advantage of Thursday’s fresh snow despite the sledding ban on the Hill.




Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., defended her constituents’ right to sled by formally requesting that Capitol Police Board Chair Frank Larkin temporarily lift the ban for this week’s snowfall.

“This could be the last snowstorm the D.C. area gets this winter, and may be one of the best for sledding in years,” Norton said in a statement. “Children and their parents should able to enjoy sledding on one of the best hills in the city.  This is a one-time waiver that will allow D.C. kids to sled while we await a more formal review of the ban, which will likely come after the last snow has fallen in our region. Have a heart, Mr. Larkin, a kid’s heart that is.”

Larkin’s heart was apparently frozen beneath the half-foot of snow, because he kept the ban in place citing safety concerns. But that didn’t keep sledders away from the area’s best hill.


Nothing like a snow day to teach the kids a little bit about civic democracy!

Full bloom

This week the National Park Services handed down estimations that the cherry blossoms would be in peak bloom later than usual, because, news flash: It’s been really really cold in D.C. (see above). The blossoms won't reach peak bloom until April 11 to 14, which is a real bummer for the folks running the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which will run March 20 to April 12. 

That, by the way, is an even bigger bummer for the thousands of tourists that the festival attracts every year. A National Cherry Blossom Festival without the star attraction is really just a sea of pink marketing.

But the locals were largely unfazed by all of this. It’s hard to dream of spring when you are still slogging through piles of dirty snow. The really good news here is:

A) The announcement confirms that spring is actually coming, even if it's late. 

B) The delay of the cherry blossoms has absolutely nothing to do with congressional gridlock.  

[Also by Abby Johnston: Why are we still talking about Obamacare?]

(Scripps Foundation intern Joe Mussatto contributed to this post.)

Want to keep up with all the latest DecodeDC stories and podcasts? Sign up for our weekly newsletter at