President Obama’s first two years in office were marked not only be a series of high-profile legislative successes, but also the custom that comes with them: signing ceremonies. The White House was only too pleased to invite the media and large crowds to see the president sign all kinds of bills into law: health care reform, Wall Street reform, DADT repeal, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, etc.
Since the start of the 112th Congress, these signing ceremonies have dwindled dramatically. Roll Call reported this week that Republicans apparently aren’t happy about it.
Senate Republicans are bristling that the president has cut down on one of his ceremonial duties: signing bills in public.
Most Republicans suspect the dearth of signing ceremonies is an election-year strategy in the mold of President Harry Truman’s method of running against a “do-nothing” Congress. To trumpet legislative successes would run counter to the narrative of a hamstrung president, Senate Republicans say.
Of all the things for Republicans to complain about, this has to be one of the more peculiar.
This is, after all, an election year, and I suspect the president would enjoy the good press that comes with getting something done.
But therein lies the point: the prerequisite to formal ceremonies that celebrate a meaningful legislative accomplishment is … a meaningful legislative accomplishment. If Republicans want more events in which lawmakers stand by Obama’s side as he puts his signature on an important bill, perhaps they should complain less, compromise more, and start sending some worthwhile bills to the White House.
It’s not as if Obama is quietly signing major legislation into law in secret.
If GOP leaders want some signing ceremonies that could prove Congress is doing something, they can help pass provisions of the American Jobs Act, the DREAM Act, comprehensive immigration reform, and some meaningful energy policies. If they do, I can practically guarantee the president holds some signing ceremonies, with plenty of pens for everyone.
I can appreciate why some lawmakers are sensitive to this being labeled a “do-nothing Congress,” even if it’s true. But the remedy isn’t to blame the scarcity of White House ceremonies; the solution is constructive policymaking.