Last week, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), one of Congress’ less-conservative members, shared his frustrations about his party’s direction.
“Week one, we had a Speaker election that did not go as well as a lot of us would have liked,” Dent told reporters. “Week two, we got into a big fight over deporting children, something that a lot of us didn’t want to have a discussion about. Week three, we are now talking about rape and incest and reportable rapes and incest for minors…. I just can’t wait for week four.”
If Dent is waiting for the Republican majority to get serious about its governing responsibilities, I’m afraid the Pennsylvania congressman will just have to be patient – “week four” will feature more nonsense.
The House will vote next week on a bill to undermine the 2010 healthcare overhaul in what will be close to the 60th time over the last four years.Next week’s vote will be the first in this Congress to repeal ObamaCare in full, leadership aides said. The House has already voted three times to modify the healthcare law this month, including to establish a full-time workweek as 40 hours instead of 30. The vote will allow new House GOP freshmen who campaigned on repealing ObamaCare to put their pledges to a vote.
When I was a kid, I used to pass by a McDonald’s on the way home from school, and it had one of those big signs out front that read, “Over __ Billion Served.” Periodically, as I recall, someone would actually change the number to show that the chain has cleared another threshold, but after a while, they were replaced with less specific signs. “Billions and Billions Served,” the new signs read.
I always figured the chain still kept track, but at a certain point, there just wasn’t any point to specifying exactly how many customers had come through the doors around the globe. It was a lot; it was what McDonald’s was good at; and that was enough.
I thought of this yesterday when learning about the House GOP’s plan for next week. Just how many times have Republicans voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act? Sure, we could check, and someone is no doubt keeping track, but like McDonald’s, we can probably just assume the number is very large and move on. Some folks sell hamburgers, some folks vote repeatedly to take away families’ access to medical care. The exact tally becomes less important over time.
In the upper chamber, meanwhile, Senate Republicans are equally busy pursuing pointless endeavors.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to bring to the Senate floor next week a House-passed bill reversing President Obama’s executive actions shielding millions of illegal immigrants from deportation. […]McConnell said the Senate will consider it next week after finishing work on legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline.
Will these measures become law? Of course not. But the point isn’t to legislate or govern; the point is to invest time and energy in bills Republicans know will fail, but which nevertheless make them feel better.
There was a point, immediately after the 2014 midterms, when quite a few Beltway commentators said Republicans, at long last, would get “serious” about governing. Never mind what happened before, these pundits said, now that they controlled Congress in its entirety, GOP lawmakers were ready to prove just how capable and responsible they can be.
I hate to say, “I told you so,” but it’s hard not to wonder whether these pundits are kicking themselves as they watch developments unfold on Capitol Hill.
For what it’s worth, this isn’t a total condemnation of “message” votes or symbolic measures – on occasion, there’s real value in bringing a let’s-get-everyone-on-the-record bill to the floor. Last week’s measures in the Senate on whether members believe in climate science didn’t have any specific legislative meaning, but the results were nevertheless informative.
But a governing party combines symbolic votes and real legislation, while Republicans seem to prioritize symbolic votes instead of real legislation.