There's been some commentary of late that this Congress, now under Republican control in both chambers, is slightly less ridiculous than the last two. And if we lower the bar for basic competence, and then lower it a little more, there may be something to the thesis: lawmakers have managed to avoid imposing a shutdown or a debt crisis in the nation over the last 12 months.
Behold, the grandeur of the world's greatest democracy?
Of course, avoiding self-imposed crises isn't much of a standard for success. This Congress has managed not to punish the country on purpose, but it hasn't done much in the way of constructive legislating, and it's failed even more spectacularly in areas such as confirmation votes.
Maybe lawmakers will get 2016 off to a more sensible start? Maybe not.
For the first time, Republicans on Wednesday are expected to send a bill to President Obama's desk that would repeal most of his signature healthcare law.While the bill faces a certain veto, the vote in the House brings Republicans closer than ever before to dismantling the healthcare legislation that they say has failed the country.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said this morning, "With this bill, we will force President Obama to show the American people where he stands."
And in a way, I suppose that's true. Americans everywhere will finally learn, once and for all, that President Obama supports Obamacare. What would we do without Kevin McCarthy adding such helpful clarity to the debate?
If you're wondering exactly how many times congressional Republicans have voted to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act, I'm afraid I long ago lost count. I think today's vote will be #62, though that may be off by a vote or two.
This one, however, will admittedly be a little different. Republicans used the budget-reconciliation process to push through a repeal bill in the fall. It passed the Senate -- reconciliation prevents filibusters -- and will clear the House today. The bill will then go to the White House for a veto.
If everyone already knows this is an elaborate waste of time, why bother? In part because forcing a veto will make Republicans feel warm and fuzzy, and in part because this is a proof-of-concept dry run for the process far-right lawmakers hope to use to gut the health care system next year if Americans elect a Republican president and a Republican Congress.
As for why so many policymakers would be so eager to take health care benefits away from millions of families, GOP lawmakers generally insist the Affordable Care Act isn't working -- all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding -- and Republicans will replace the ACA with a superior alternative.
That alternative, of course, has been in the works since June 2009.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was asked this morning why he and his conference are moving forward with a repeal bill before the Republican alternative is available. "Just wait," he said with a smile.
After six-and-a-half years, we've gotten quite good at waiting.