John Boehner’s Congress is a train wreck

September 20, 2013

After spending the past few months trying to figure out a way around passing a funding bill that defunded Obamacare, House Speaker John Boehner spent the morning passing a funding bill that defunded Obamacare.

"You know, we had a victory today for the American people," he said with a straight face. "And frankly, we also had a victory for common sense. Listen, Senator Baucus said it right several months ago when he said that this law is a ‘train wreck.’ And it is a train wreck."

Obamacare begins open enrollment Oct. 1 and begins actually delivering health insurance  Jan. 1. Whether it's a train wreck remains to be seen.

But here's what we can say: Under the leadership of Speaker John Boehner, the 113th Congress — and the House of Representatives in particular — is a complete and total train wreck.


Congress, today is your fault. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Begin with the simplest question: What have they gotten done?

The Senate managed to pass comprehensive immigration reform with bipartisan support. The House's effort has fallen apart.

The Senate passed a farm bill. The House failed at that, and has been breaking their farm bill into pieces and trying to pass them one at a time.

The Senate, at long last, passed a budget and moved to go to conference with the House. The House passed a budget and refused to go to conference with the Senate.

The list goes on. Gun control was a flop. The appropriations process has been a mess. We almost went over the fiscal cliff when Boehner's "Plan B" failed. Sequestration, which Boehner once called "devastating," is now the law of the land. The Fed can't pursue the policies it thinks makes sense because it's scared that Congress is going to drive the economy into a ditch.

The data tells the same story. So far, the 113th Congress has passed 36 public laws. For comparison, the 112th Congress — the least productive Congress since we began keeping records — passed 283 public laws. At this rate, the 113th Congress is on track to be, by far, the least productive Congress on record.

Boehner, however, has said he rejects these metrics. "We should not be judged on how many new laws we create," he told CBS. "We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal."

So how many laws has Boehner repealed?

Well, none. He's tried to repeal Obamacare a bunch of times, but Obamacare remains the law of the land. He hasn't managed, or even really tried, to repeal any other major laws at all.

But perhaps the American people enjoy this kind of gridlock. Perhaps they want nothing done and nothing undone. Well, if that's the case, then they have a funny way of rewarding success:

In fact, as unpopular as Obamacare is, Congress is even more unpopular:


Obamacare numbers from the August Kaiser Track Poll. Congressional numbers from Gallup.

And it's getting, if anything, worse. Boehner favored a continuing resolution that the Senate could pass and president could sign. But he buckled to opposition and instead passed a CR the Senate will reject, and that could lead to a government shutdown.

More disturbing is that part of Boehner's strategy to avoid a government shutdown is to convince his members that they should really hold their fire for "a whale of a fight" over raising the debt ceiling. That moves the conflict to a much more dangerous theatre — one that could result in a global financial crisis. For all the press Sen. Ted Cruz gets, his threat of a shutdown is far less irresponsible than Boehner's threat of a default.

This isn't all Boehner's fault, of course. He's dealing with a fractious conference. He's getting outflanked by media-savvy, hardline conservatives. He's facing real challenges to his leadership.

But some of it is Boehner's fault. Many of his members don't trust him. He refuses to level with Republicans about what is and isn't possible for them to achieve. He refuses to go around them by cutting deals with the Democrats on issues where there could be agreement, like immigration or the CR. He's promoting a debt-ceiling fight that could have disastrous consequences.

And he is, ultimately, the guy in charge of the worst-performing part of one of the worst-performing Congresses in history. If he's looking for train wrecks to fix, he might start closer to home.

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Business
Next Story
Lydia DePillis · September 20, 2013