What was once just an internet fad destined to fade is now immortalized as proposed legislation. In a terribly clever jab at President Trump’s infamous Twitter habit, Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL) introduced the Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically For Engagement Act of 2017, or the COVEFEFE Act. This new Act would amend Section 2201 of title 44 so that the Presidential Records Act will apply to social media as well. USA Today reports:
Quigley said in a statement that Trump needed to be held accountable for his posts.
“In order to maintain public trust in government, elected officials must answer for what they do and say,” said Quigley, who is a co-founder and co-chairman of the Congressional Transparency Caucus. “This includes 140-character tweets. President Trump’s frequent, unfiltered use of his personal Twitter account as a means of official communications is unprecedented.”
Back in 2014, the National Archives released guidance that social media merits historical recording, and earlier this year, it advised the White House to “capture and preserve all tweets that the President posts … including those that are subsequently deleted.”
Mr. Quigley makes a valid point about the president’s unprecedented use of Twitter. While many of the president’s Tweets are clearly personal opinion, he has used the platform to make what should be official announcements. For those who believe in the Presidential Records Act, this update makes sense – and should have come shortly after social media became available. However, the internet is already a fairly permanent thing. If the Covfefe tweet taught us anything, it is that this law is unnecessary. The National Archives already advised that even deleted tweets be recorded, and the media and the American people, in general, are doing a great job of it without additional legislation.
This bill will likely find favor with the Democrats in Congress because of its apparent aim at the Republican president that they all seem to love to hate and because a Democrat proposed it. However, without garnering the support of at least some Republicans, this bill will die.
Of course, Republicans will almost certainly kill this bill, but not just for the reasons Democrats will love it. The Republicans of Congress might also imagine two hypothetical situations once all presidential social media accounts – both official and personal – become the public property of the United States. If the changes in this bill are incorporated into the original act, the president will not be able to block people from even his personal accounts without violating their First Amendment rights. Additionally, the president would not be able to legally delete posts or even correct typos without first receiving permission to do so.
Republicans are likely to see these two possibilities as the real reasons for Mr. Quigley’s bill – especially in light of how he named it and his statement, which called out President Trump personally. They may perceive this bill as nothing more than an attempt by Democrats to manufacture a law specifically to rid themselves of a Trump presidency after all other attempts have failed. Those Republicans who are also Christian conservatives might note this story is reminiscent of both the fiery furnace and lion’s den stories from the Biblical book of Daniel. When jealous officials were unable to get rid of Daniel, Meshach Shadrach, and Abednego, they requested official decrees which they knew these men would disobey to have them executed.
Regardless of Mr. Quigley’s true intentions – whether they be the altruistic call to preserve history or the clever ploy to attack President Trump – this bill is not written, titled or presented in a way that is likely to gain much Republican support if any. Without a Democrat majority or sufficient Republican support, it is likely this bill that will perish in the fiery furnace of Congress and be chewed apart by the lions.
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