Politics & Government

House's COVFEFE Act has a silly name, but it would significantly impact Trump

By Greg Hadley

ghadley@mcclatchy.com

AP

President Donald Trump’s prolific use of Twitter has not eased up ever since he took office, and that’s sometimes led to some embarrassing typos and flubs, including the now infamous internet joke “covfefe.”

But while most of the American public is getting to the point that they’re tired of the “covfefe” memes and references, one member of Congress is hoping it has just enough life left in it to carry his newest piece of legislation.

On Monday, Illinois Democrat Mike Quigley introduced the “Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement” Act, or COVFEFE Act for short. And as far as drumming up publicity for the bill, Quigley’s name seems to have worked: On Twitter, his post announcing the bill has roughly twice as many likes and retweets as any of his other recent tweets.

But behind the bill’s jokey name, Quigley, insists, is a serious issue: Whether or not Trump’s private Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, should be subject to the same oversights that his public account, @POTUS.

That issue has been debated for several months now, as Trump has continually made use of his private account to make policy announcements, tease political appointments and give his unvarnished opinion on the news of the day. However, he’s also deleted tweets with misspellings or grammatical errors in them, and critics, including Quigley, say he shouldn’t be able to do that.

After the Watergate scandal, the Presidential Records Act of 1978 was passed to prohibit presidents from destroying certain records, including electronic records on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites, according to U.S. News and World Report. Even after a president leaves office, his tweets and posts live on, getting transferred to the control of the U.S. Archives office. For example, President Barack Obama’s tweets in office can now be found under @POTUS44.

Trump, however, has managed to skirt this rule by mostly using his private account, not @POTUS, putting his tweets in a legal gray area and garnering a bipartisan warning from Congress for administration officials to stop deleting posts.

Quigley wants to take any ambiguity out of the equation. The COVFEFE Act would amend the Presidential Records Act to essentially include Trump’s personal account while in office as public record.

“In order to maintain public trust in government, elected officials must answer for what they do and say; this includes 140-character tweets,” Quigley said in a statement. “President Trump’s frequent, unfiltered use of his personal Twitter account as a means of official communication is unprecedented. If the President is going to take to social media to make sudden public policy proclamations, we must ensure that these statements are documented and preserved for future reference. Tweets are powerful, and the President must be held accountable for every post.”

This is not the first time Quigley has given an unusual name to a bill. In March, he introduced the MAR-A-LAGO Act in a bid to force Trump to publicly disclose his visitor logs from the White House and his private club in Mar-a-Lago, Florida. That bill, however, has made little progress and is considered a longshot for actual House passage, according to GovTrack.

And Quigley is hardly alone in his desire to use acronyms to spell a word and set his bill apart. In 2015, the Washington Post ranked 365 different bills based on their acronyms, ranging anywhere from the CECIL Act (named after the famous lion killed by a trophy hunter) to the JAWS Act to the GIF Act.

  Comments