May 24, 2013
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio gestures Thursday toward a stack of paper representing the Affordable Health Care Act regulations. (Molly Riley/Associated Press)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio gestures Thursday toward a stack of paper representing the Affordable Health Care Act regulations. (Molly Riley/Associated Press)

A month ago, I noted an oddity about House Republicans. The House majority party has a tradition of reserving the first 10 numbered bills for the party agenda, and they have done so this year — but nine of the 10 were still blank 100 days into the 113th Congress, with the congressional information system saying only that they were “reserved for the Speaker.”  Of those nine, they had announced that H.R. 1 would be the tax reform bill, but that was it. This was dramatically fewer than any other recent Congress at the same stage. The obvious conclusion? House Republicans have given up on policy.

So, one month later, is there more?

A little, yes.

Instead of nine blank bills, they’re down to eight. The new one is Chris Smith’s “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” Granted, there’s already a prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion, but this is a substantive bill, with Smith trying systematically to prevent any indirect funding for abortion no matter how tenuous. On top of that, the other priority bill — H.R. 3, about Keystone XL – has passed the House.

On the other hand, eight slots still are unused, and there is no sign of a tax-reform bill. So, they’re still far below the norm of all other recent congresses.

No, it’s not conclusive proof that Republicans aren’t really interested in or capable of working on public policy these days. But it is evidence. Combined with everything else (such as, for example, their utter failure to ever bother coming up with a “replace” bill as part of their “repeal and replace” heath-care plan), it makes a strong case that they just aren’t very interested in policy.