The Republican presidential race has a way of sucking all the oxygen out of the room and obscuring much of the domestic news of the day. But a series of developments this week should remind us that in the broader political landscape Capitol Hill Republicans are in better shape than the you might think by looking at their dreadful poll numbers.
This week, the House Republicans put the screws on Attorney General Eric Holder for his stonewalling and excuse-mongering on the scandalous “Fast and Furious” drug-running scheme. He was left to plead that he should be given “credit” for his tenure at the Justice Department. Democrats were left to coo over the AG, scolding their colleagues for exercising their oversight duties. Now there are some campaign-ad-worthy clips in there.
The House also voted this week to freeze congressional and federal civilian salaries, repealed the unsustainable CLASS Act (the disability plan included under ObamaCare, which the administration has conceded is unsustainable) and passed a pro-growth budgeting bill. As to the latter, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) explained:
The Pro-Growth Budgeting Act enables lawmakers to proceed with a greater degree of caution when considering major legislation, because it enhances the toolkit that the CBO uses to analyze legislation.
The Act includes items such as giving the Budget Act the force of law (requiring a presidential signature), imposition of spending limits, baseline budgeting reform (to prevent gamesmanship and give an accurate year-to-year spending comparison), prevention of government shutdowns (by extending funding at a reduced level), enhanced transparency and CBO assessment of the economic impact of major pieces of legislation.
Now, none of this is above-the-fold news. But it does reflect that, unlike the Democratic-controlled Senate, the House is functioning as it should, passing legislation and exercising oversight. It is, to the extent a single branch of Congress faced with an uncooperative White House can, attempting to move the ball ahead on fiscal discipline.
And to top it off, the House will soon receive and expeditiously pass the ban on insider trading that flew through the Senate on a 96-3 vote. The Senate rejected some amendments and passed others, as Politico reported:
By a 40-59 vote, the Senate shot down an effort by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to permanently outlaw congressional earmarks, even as Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said Thursday he would extend a temporary earmark ban one more year through 2013. The Senate also rejected a nonbinding resolution by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) that expressed the Senate’s desire to pass a constitutional amendment limiting terms for lawmakers.
But the chamber passed amendments that would prevent bonuses for top executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, strip lawmakers of their federal pension if they’re convicted of certain crimes, and give prosecutors new tools to investigate and prosecute criminal conduct by public officials.
In other words, we saw some legislating this week. The White House will be glum, no doubt, if this keeps up and dispels the president’s campaign message that the barrier to progress on the debt, tax reform and other major issues is the Republican House. (The Senate hasn't passed a budget in years. The White House has never spelled out its own tax- and entitlement-reform plans.) Gosh, the GOP-controlled House seems to be doing its business quite responsibly. When the Senate does the same, it can even put bills on the president’s desk.