Lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington are getting ready for a four-week break, followed by a September in which House Republicans have only scheduled nine days of work for the entire month, and they're leaving quite a to-do list behind. Four of the 12 appropriations bills that have to pass before the end of the fiscal year are being ignored; the farm bill is stuck; immigration reform is demanding attention; and a debt-ceiling crisis looms.
There is, in other words, real work that needs to get done, and in theory, members of Congress would be scrambling right now to get as much finished as possible. Indeed, in the not-too-distant past, the days leading up to the August recess were considered some of the most productive of the year -- in part because members wanted something to brag about back in their states and districts.
...House Republicans will spend much of this week voting on a collection of legislative proposals aimed mostly at embarrassing the Obama administration and scoring some political points. [...]Eager to call renewed attention to the troubled Internal Revenue Service and lingering doubts about the health-care law, Republican leaders have dubbed this "Stop Government Abuse Week," a parting shot at the White House and a conversation-starter for GOP lawmakers as they travel home to their districts in August. [...]The themed week has been in the works for more than a month, and some GOP aides privately admit that House leaders rushed consideration of the farm bill in early July in order to make space on the calendar for the "scandal bills."
That last point is of particular interest. It's not unusual for lawmakers to play little partisan games, hoping to score cheap points, but as a rule, these antics are supposed to supplement actual governing. But radicalized Republicans prefer a different approach -- they're replacing real work with far-right stunts intended to make them and their base feel better.
There's real work to do? It doesn't matter. The so-called "scandals" have been discredited? That doesn't matter, either.
This is already the least productive Congress in modern American history, and the House GOP majority has already spent an enormous amount of time holding pointless votes to repeal federal health care law and restrict reproductive rights. But in the minds of congressional Republicans, what will really impress voters back home are more symbolic gestures, instead of dealing with actual work.
Here's my question for GOP leaders: when you see Congress' approval rating dropping to its lowest point since the dawn of modern polling, do you think it reflects public demand for more partisan stunts? Do you think these message votes are impressing anyone?