WASHINGTON -- It was weird enough that the House spent days debating a bill about helium. But then came Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), who gave a floor speech commending Congress for "making the tough choice" to focus on gas instead of, say, the impact of sequestration on the nation's most vulnerable.
"Imagine a world without balloons," Johnson said Thursday afternoon. "How can we make sure that [there isn't] the injustice of there being no helium for comedians to get that high-pitched voice that we all hold near and dear to our hearts?"
Johnson said his speech, which he conceded was in jest, was meant to highlight the fact that the House isn't working on more pressing issues.
"Today, the House has chosen to just simply float above it all," he said, in one of many gas references. "Too often lately, this body has sat deflated. Not for a lack of hot air, mind you. But seriously, ladies and gentleman, unlike a noble element, this House has failed to act on American's real concerns."
Johnson ultimately voted for the bill, which would restructure the government's sale of helium from the Federal Helium Reserve, but still attached sarcasm to his reason why.
Action on the bill "shows that this Tea Party House will make the tough choice to keep children's birthday parties on schedule and give industries that rely on helium the lift they deserve," he said.
It's not the first time Johnson has made unusual remarks on an issue. During a House Armed Services Committee hearing in April 2010, he expressed concern that the military build-up on the island of Guam was getting so severe that the island might actually sink.
"My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize," Johnson said.
His staff later said he was kidding.