In addition to suggesting that the impeachment is a waste of time and of the House’s mandate, Trump is also drawing a contrast with the Senate, which he presents (if only tacitly) as being hard at work. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) embraces that contrast.
There’s just one problem with this particular branding effort: The House has actually passed more legislation this year than the Senate.
Some 542 measures originating in the House have been passed by the House or both the House and the Senate during the 116th Congress, which began in January. Of those 542 measures, 389 were bills. On the Senate side, the numbers are lower: 384 measures, of which only 91 are bills. The rest were resolutions of one kind or another.
The House has had more than 600 roll-call votes since January, meaning votes in which the issues at hand weren’t agreed to by acclamation. A plurality of those votes were to consider proposed amendments, many of them related to appropriations bills considered in June. Votes on passage were the third-most-common type of roll-call vote.
Amendments and motions, though, made up much more of the votes.
What was the Senate voting on? Mostly cloture — moving past filibusters — and, of course, nominations made by the president.
The Senate took 172 roll-call votes on cloture, many of them related to the 141 votes on nominations. Of those 141 nomination votes, 81 were for members of the judiciary.
You may have noticed that the Senate hasn’t taken many roll-call votes on passage of legislation relative to all of the votes it has taken. Comparing the two chambers by day, the difference is stark.
To the president, of course, focusing on approving judges is very much doing something. Trump has repeatedly touted the Senate’s progress on confirming judges, an effort McConnell has embraced with alacrity. In fact, Senate confirmations have at times been explicitly celebrated as an example of Congress getting things done compared with what’s happening in the House.
Here, for example, is Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel in November.
It is not traditionally the role of the Senate to identify its primary role as being to rubber-stamp nominations made by the president of the majority party. It is also somewhat ironic for Trump and his allies to insist that confirming judges and other appointees is the real work of Congress while an impeachment inquiry spanning two months and numerous hearings is doing “nothing.”
Which you determine to be a better example of hard work — approving conservatives to the bench or investigating Trump’s interactions regarding Ukraine — probably depends largely on your view of Trump.