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5 ways to punish members of Congress for the shutdown
And that's not even counting the obvious one: Vote for somebody else next year.
Oh, you can do more than protest.
Oh, you can do more than protest. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
W

ith the government shut down and veering drunkenly toward a fiscal disaster, Americans aren't impressed with their representatives in Congress. In a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, a full 60 percent of respondents said that "if there were a place on [their] ballot that allowed [them] to vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress, including [their] own representative," they would do it.

A year from now, assuming the U.S. doesn't suffer a calamitous default on the federal debt, Americans will probably feel more forgiving toward their member of Congress, and the incumbency rate will probably be about as high as always. But if you're mad right now, there's no mandatory waiting period for (nonviolently) blowing off steam at your congressman.

Here are five ways to take revenge on Congress for using constituents as pawns in a nonsensical political game:

1. Why call when you can drunk-dial?
Calling your representative to voice your displeasure is a responsible, civic way of handling your annoyance. But this is 2013, and there's an app for doing it better.

Try DrunkDialCongress.org. "Mad at Congress over the shutdown?" asks the site. "Have a drink and tell them." You enter your phone number, and a boozy-sounding voice calls you back from a toll-free number. It asks, "Is this government shutdown making you want to drink?," then connects you to a random member of Congress, whom you're encouraged to yell at. The site also includes talking points — like "I can't watch the panda" and "You guys aren't funding the police that are protecting you???" — and drink recipes.

"Before you get your drunk dial on," suggests Anneta Konstantinides at ABC News, "there’s also f--youcongress.com, which offers a slew of facts regarding those who have been affected by the shutdown." Here is one, cited by Konstantinides:

"The National Institutes of Health is closed, but all they do is admit kids with cancer into clinical trials to try and save them. So sure, keep holding out Congress. It's worth it. Also, f--k you."

2. Take away their pay and perquisites
One of the most galling things about the government shutdown is that while almost no federal employees are getting paid, members of Congress are receiving their full paycheck. The best way to make them understand the mess they've created is to "let them see what a shutdown really feels like," says Petula Dvorak at The Washington Post. She has some ideas:

Members of Congress get loads of perks. They get lifetime health care, lunches, child care, gym memberships, and free parking at Reagan National and Dulles International airports. They probably like those things. Get rid of all of them. [Washington Post]

3. Fleece them at restaurants and bars
Granted, this tactic only works if you're a food server or restaurant/bar owner in the Washington, D.C., area. But this plan shows Congress that privilege cuts both ways. Kramers Cafe, off Dupont Circle, exemplifies the idea:

Beltway restaurants and bars have been offering discounts to furloughed workers, says Missy Frederick at Eater, but the braver ones are "taking things a step further and denying those deals to Congress — or even suggesting that lawmakers who patronize their places will be charged extra for their antics." Are those admittedly discriminatory policies even legal? "Probably not, but they're still funny," says Frederick.

Here's a tip, waiters and bartenders: All members of the House wear special lapel pins, making them easy to identify. They look like this:

4. Ignore them
The Washington Post's Dvorak didn't just offer her own suggestion, she also rounded up ideas from people on the street, social media habitués, and friends. Some of the suggestions were of the crime-fits-the-punishment variety: "They could collect trash for D.C. residents," said one. Others were downright violent: "Line 'em up and shoot 'em. I consider what they're doing treason."

But an unidentified mother of three who works for the federal government knows how to hurt them where it counts. Her suggestion: "Turn off their cameras."

"Bingo," says Dvorak. "Cut their unfiltered lifeline: C-SPAN should go dark. Take away the fuel for their ambitions, egos, and grandstanding."

5. Strip of them of their health care benefits
This one seems almost too mean to seriously contemplate. But luckily you don't have to — Congress is trying to do it to itself, for everyone from the most senior senator to lowliest congressional aide. The so-called Vitter Amendment, proposed by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and approved by the Republican-led House as an amendment to the federal budget, would make sure that members of Congress and their staffers don't get any government subsidies for buying health care on the ObamaCare insurance exchanges.

Why are members of Congress being forced to buy their health insurance on exchanges meant for the uninsured? That's thanks to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who added that amendment to the Affordable Care Act in an attempt to embarrass Democrats.

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian, and plays in an Austin rock band.

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