Joshua Roberts/Reuters

When counseling techniques replace governing

House Republicans are still working on their plan to avoid a government shutdown – it’s not going well – but the gist of the GOP plan involves a symbolic vote this week before tackling spending measures next week.
 
More specifically, the current strategy would bring a bill from Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) to the floor, which would effectively dismantle President Obama’s new immigration policy. Could the bill pass the Senate? No, and it’s unlikely to be considered. Could the bill earn the president’s signature? Of course not.
 
So what’s the point? It all comes to down to a single word, which has popped up quite a bit this week. From the Associated Press:
The Republican-led House may vote this week to undo President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, House Speaker John Boehner told lawmakers Tuesday as he sought to give outraged conservatives an outlet to vent over Obama’s move without shutting down the government.
Boehner, McCarthy and Scalise need to craft a process that will allow conservatives to vent, but prevent a shutdown.
The resolution to undo the president’s action, however, would largely be a way for House Republicans to vent their displeasure, and could come as early as Thursday.
House Speaker John A. Boehner, who has pleaded with fellow Republicans to avoid a contentious government shutdown fight, appeared to win support on Tuesday for a plan that would allow members of his party to vent anger at President Obama while keeping the government open beyond next week.
I’m not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with news organizations using the same word repeatedly. On the contrary, it’s entirely accurate and appropriate.
 
But I do hope political observers pause to appreciate how farcical the circumstances are.
 
All of us should, at some level, find it remarkable that the House majority party, with eight days before a shutdown deadline, wants to invest time and energy in a symbolic gesture – complete with the knowledge that it stands literally no chance whatsoever of becoming law – simply to benefit their psyche.
 
This keeps happening. House Republicans voted several dozen times to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act – I long ago lost count of the failed efforts – even though they knew these measures wouldn’t advance. They spent the time anyway, though, because it was intended to make them feel better. They wanted to “vent.”
 
Republicans passed a border bill over the summer they knew couldn’t become law because it relieved pent up emotional pressure. They wanted to approve a travel ban to West Africa, not to advance public health, but because it would have brought them emotional satisfaction.
 
It’s as if Congress has replaced legislative mechanisms with counseling techniques. GOP leaders are interested in funding the federal government, but they’re equally interested in tending to Republicans’ emotional fragility.
 
“How does the president’s governing make you feel?” the GOP leadership asks its members.
 
“I’m very upset,” Republican lawmakers reply.
 
“Well, here’s a symbolic gesture that won’t go anywhere, which you can vote for to feel better, and which shouldn’t at all be seen as crass patronizing,” the leadership says reassuringly.
 
“That’d be great,” the rank-and-file respond.
 
I’m all for emotional stability, but we’re talking about adults elected to shape federal laws in a global superpower. If it’s absolutely necessary for Republicans to find suitable outlets for “venting,” there has to be less ridiculous methods than this.
 

House Republicans

When counseling techniques replace governing