Heard on the Hill

Auction off Pelosi’s ripped speech? Only he would think of it

Billy Long isn’t the only former professional auctioneer in Congress, but lately he’s been the most creative

Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., shakes hands with President Donald Trump after 2019 the State of the Union address. (Doug Mills/The New York Times file photo)

Rep. Billy Long, the proud owner of verified Twitter handle “auctnr1,” reminded us again this week why his colleagues call him Congress’ “auctioneer in residence.”

As President Donald Trump finished his third State of the Union speech Tuesday night and Speaker Nancy Pelosi tore her copy in half, Long was stationed in the center-right aisle of the chamber to get the president to sign his tie.

The idea was to auction off the tie for charity, so Long was already in an auctioneering state of mind.

In fact, you could say that state of mind is ever-present for the Missouri congressman, who opened his own auction company in 1983, was voted “Best Auctioneer in the Ozarks” multiple times, and landed a spot in the National Auctioneers’ Association Hall of Fame.

It was with those credentials that Long approached the speaker of the House. “I went up to [Pelosi] as she was showing off her ripped up speech to the gallery and I said you should auction that off for charity. She said no I’m keeping it for prosperity,” the Republican tweeted, sharing his account of the challenge he issued. (The speaker’s office didn’t respond to Heard on the Hill’s request for comment.)

Coming from anyone else, the challenge might have seemed oddly specific — but this was the same member of Congress who went viral in 2018 when he pretended to auction off the cellphone of a protester who interrupted a hearing.

“We’re selling the cellphone there, four and a quarter, four and a half ... five and a quarter, five and a half, I yield back,” he said as security led her out of the Energy and Commerce hearing, which featured Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

[See the State of the Union through the lens of CQ Roll Call photographers]

And then there was the time he tried to auction off the national debt on the House floor while calling for a national day to honor auctioneers.

“Auctions are the last stronghold of the competitive free market enterprise system and continue to be the most effective means of establishing a fair market value,” he said in 2011.

Most recently, he showcased his auctioneering skills at a Rose Garden celebration for the 2019 Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. When the president invited him up to the front to jokingly auction off the Stanley Cup, Long used the opportunity to ask the commander in chief to sign the tie around his neck — just as he had at the 2019 State of the Union and would again this year. 

The necktie signed after last year’s speech fetched $15,000 at auction for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a spokesperson for Long said.

Long isn’t the only member of Congress with a background in professional auctioneering, even if he is the most likely to use it in his current career. GOP Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina also once wielded the gavel.

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