As he began his annual month-long, 14-state bus tour this week, the Ohio Republican left many of the red-meat issues that rev up his base back in Washington. Instead, he's trying to promote a different message: Republicans are doing the legislating while everyone else is slacking off. [...] "When you hear all this stuff about the Congress, understand there are two bodies in the Congress," Boehner said during a morning fundraiser in Bolingbrook, a suburb of Chicago. "One is working our rear ends off, and frankly, you'd be surprised all the stuff we do is done on a bipartisan basis. [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid didn't even try to pass a border bill that we passed last Friday."
About a year ago, a reporter started to ask House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) about Congress' "historically unproductive" term. "That's just total nonsense," he snapped, before the question was even finished.
In reality, it wasn't nonsense at all, and the question appears even more apt now. The fact remains that this is the least productive Congress since clerks started keeping track nearly a century ago.
Soon after, Boehner switched gears and tried to turn the argument around -- sure, he said, Congress isn't legislating, but that's a good thing. According to Boehner, Congress "should not be judged by how many new laws we create," but rather, Congress "ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal."
This effort to rebrand failure also posed a problem: Congress hasn't repealed laws, either. By either standard, the legislative branch was failing miserably.
But the hapless House Speaker clearly remains sensitive about Congress' ineptitude, which seems to have led him to an entirely new argument: Congress isn't working, but the Republican-led House is awesome.
And it's at this point when the House Speaker made the transition from embattled to pitiful.
Boehner may feel slightly embarrassed for creating an accomplishment-free legacy for himself, and he's no doubt frustrated by the fact that Congress' approval rating has fallen to levels unseen since the dawn of modern polling, but this latest tack to rationalize failure is laughable.
Consider the example Boehner himself is using: the GOP-led House passed a "border bill," while the Democratic-led Senate ignored it. Proof of House Republicans working their "rear ends off"? Not for anyone who was actually awake and watching Congress last week.The House's "border bill" was a ridiculous joke that even Boehner didn't like. The Speaker pushed an entirely different bill; his own members decided to ignore his weak leadership (again); causing Boehner to give up and tell right-wing extremists to write whatever they wanted, without any regard for whether it would become law.
It was a pathetic effort to ram through a symbolic gesture, not a legitimate effort to pass a real bill. That Boehner is using this as a great example of how effective House Republicans are helps prove the exact opposite point.
On the surface, it stands to reason both sides are going to blame the other -- in this do-nothing Congress, the Democratic Senate wants voters to blame the Republican House and vice versa. None of this is surprising.
But there's an objective truth available to anyone who wants to see it. This Congress could approve immigration reform, tax reform, ENDA, and a minimum-wage increase, among other things, were it not for the no-compromise, far-right party dominating the U.S. House. That's just the reality.
Boehner, taking orders instead of giving them, has approved a bunch of symbolic, partisan bills that no one, including Republicans, expect to become law, but that's not governing -- it's self-indulgent posturing. Until the Speaker is prepared to acknowledge the difference, Congress will remain a national embarrassment.