March 28, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen, your House Republicans:

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) was assigned to write legislation that would cut $380 million in loan guarantees to clean-energy companies. But nothing happened with that idea, because Kelly never wrote a bill. He got distracted.

 

“It was a priority, and it remains an issue of interest. But Mike’s efforts shifted when he chose to focus more on holding the administration accountable with regards to [Operation] Fast and Furious. And then when the Benghazi tragedy occurred, that took the cake,” said Kelly’s spokesman, Tom Qualtere.

That’s from a nice article by David A. Fahrenthold about the fizzling of budget-cutting efforts by Barack Obama and by House Republicans. The Obama portion is interesting, but when it gets to the House Republicans, it rapidly becomes farce. Basically, the Republicans came up with a nice gimmick but had no interest at all in legislative follow-through.

Couldn’t write a bill because he was distracted by Fast and Furious and Benghazi? Why not just say that his computer was down or that a dog ate his homework? At least those cliched excuses don’t imply what is really going on here: Republican politicians who believed that the job of a member of Congress is to be outraged, and once they’ve done that, they can pretty much go home.

Which, as I was getting at yesterday, is the whole story of the Boehner-era House Republicans. Their big bill from the last Congress was to be repeal-and-replace, yet they never even held hearings to develop a bill to replace the Affordable Care Act. They do pass (nonbinding and unusually vague) budget resolutions, but there’s never any legislation to implement those resolutions. Last week was the third time in three years that House Republicans voted to replace Medicare with a new scheme, but they don’t even pretend that there will ever be an actual bill to carry out that plan. Now, it’s comprehensive tax reform that is supposedly their agenda. We’ll see … or, as I’m predicting, we won’t see.

The truth is that the House of Representatives right now appears to be both incapable of legislating and not very interested in it, either. Thus the Boehner Rule that the Senate needs to go first; thus the fact that it’s the Senate, not the House, hard at work on both immigration and gun bills; thus the dozens of votes on repealing Obamacare but hardly any actual legislation with any chance of becoming law.

There’s been a fair amount of attention to the dysfunctional Senate, and rightly so, but in some ways what’s happened to the House under the Republicans is worse — after all, there’s no rules reform that could revive the chamber. The only thing that would do that would be to put the Democrats back in the majority — or find a different set of Republicans. Because the real problem here, as it is in so many cases, is simply a broken Republican Party.