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When Republicans visited the Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee in Israel, seen here without naked Republican politicians.
The Sea of Galilee in Israel, seen here without naked Republican politicians.maddavethorp/Flickr

Remember after the 2010 midterms, when Republicans said power would now be in the hands of responsible lawmakers, who'll finally make Americans proud of their Congress?

How's that working out?

The FBI probed a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee that involved drinking, numerous GOP freshmen lawmakers, top leadership staff -- and one nude member of Congress, according to more than a dozen sources, including eyewitnesses.

During a fact-finding congressional trip to the Holy Land last summer, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) took off his clothes and jumped into the sea, joining a number of members, their families and GOP staff during a night out in Israel, the sources told POLITICO. Other participants, including the daughter of another congressman, swam fully clothed while some lawmakers partially disrobed. More than 20 people took part in the late-night dip in the sea, according to sources who took part in the trip.

"A year ago, my wife, Brooke, and I joined colleagues for dinner at the Sea of Galilee in Israel. After dinner I followed some Members of Congress in a spontaneous and very brief dive into the sea and regrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit," Yoder said in a statement to POLITICO.

Other swimmers included Reps. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.). Explanations for the swim varied, but "several privately admitted that alcohol may have played a role in why some of those present decided to jump in."

Ya don't say.

In fairness to the raucous Republicans, it's not at all clear why the FBI looked into this. Unless there's reason to believe crimes were committed -- and there's not much in the article that points in that direction -- it's hard to understand why the FBI would care. Perhaps there are relevant details we don't yet know.

Regardless, I'm struck by the larger context. The incident was in August 2011, shortly after these same Republican lawmakers, for the first time in American history, held the full faith and credit of the United States hostage, rattling markets, undermining the economy, and causing a downgrade in our debt rating. They were in Israel, where Jesus is said to have walked on water -- this gives "kiss my ass, this is a holy site" a whole new meaning -- and as part of an official delegation, they were representing all of us, traveling on our dime.

And they nevertheless thought it'd be a good idea to start partying a little too hard.

I can think of a lot of reasons this is the worst Congress ever, and why congressional incumbents are pretending to be challengers, hoping voters won't know the difference, and it looks like we can add this to a pretty long list.

For the record, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was reportedly the senior most GOP lawmaker in Israel on the trip, and "rebuked the 30 lawmakers the morning after" the incident. It's unclear, however, if any of the offending members were punished outside of the scolding.

Photo credit: maddavethorp/Flickr