In a way, the 114th Congress, which began work exactly one month ago today, has a very low bar to clear. The 112th Congress was arguably the worst in American history, edging out the 113th Congress for the dubious honor. This current crop arguably has nowhere to go but up.
But with one full month under its belt, this Congress is nevertheless off to a pretty woeful start.
To date, one bill has passed both chambers and been signed into law: the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (or as it’s popularly known, TRIA). The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention bill also passed Congress, and will be signed by President Obama, bringing the grand total to two.
But after the Republican takeover of Capitol Hill, these aren’t exactly results to celebrate. Eugene Robinson noted this morning, “If the party’s aim is to show Americans it is ready to govern, we are witnessing an epic fail.”
Paul Waldman asked this week if it’s “too early to call the new GOP Congress a failure.” Noting “a month-long string of pratfalls” – Keystone, abortion, Homeland Security funding – Congress seemed to reach a new depth with another vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
[T]he House took its 56th vote to repeal Obamacare, and as Dana Milbank reports, even Republicans themselves can’t get excited about that. “For much of the debate Tuesday afternoon, no more than a dozen seats were occupied on the pro-repeal side of the House. More than once, the GOP had nobody available to speak.”Oh, and one of their new star senators made news by stating that restaurant workers shouldn’t have to wash their hands after going to the bathroom.It’s quite a record of accomplishment. What wonders will their second month in power bring forth to improve Americans’ lives?
After House Republicans failed miserably to approve their own border-security bill, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) grudgingly conceded GOP lawmakers have had a few “stumbles” since the start of the Republican-led Congress. It was a generous description of recent events.
In fairness, it’s just the first month. It’s possible lawmakers will get their act together, govern effectively, work on constructive legislation that has a chance of becoming law, and exceed expectations.
Stop laughing. I said “possible,” not “likely.”
I rather doubt GOP leaders want my advice, but I have three simple suggestions that might help get the institution back on track:
1. Consider legislation that might become law.
Republicans have prioritized a series of bills – on energy, immigration, Wall Street, health care, and abortion – that stand absolutely no chance whatsoever of becoming law. And while some message votes and posturing is routine in D.C., ideally, Congress intermixes partisan theater with actual work. Right now, we have none of the latter and all of the former.
2. Don’t hurt people on purpose.
If Republicans on the Supreme Court destroy the American health care system, for example, GOP lawmakers would look awfully great if they ensured that families don’t suffer on purpose. The same goes for immigration, where efforts to strip millions of people of legal protections obviously aren’t going well.
3. Don’t threaten to hurt people on purpose.
Republicans have grown a little too fond of hostage standoffs and manufactured crises. When it comes to issues like the debt ceiling, the budget, and DHS funding, why not work on a cooperative solution, instead of vowing sweeping, deliberate harm unless Republicans’ demands are met?
Congress has 23 months to go. Month One was an ugly mess, but it doesn’t have to be this way.