Blame the ‘Do-Too-Much’ Senate and Its Obamacare Fixation
With a Republican-controlled White House and Congress, lawmaking in Washington is not quite going as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) might have dreamed and schemed about last year when they agreed to back Trump. They probably expected him to sign anything they put before him, which would have been a virtual avalanche of right-wing legislation, to make a Trump presidency palatable.
Well, he’s kept up his part of the bargain—partly. He has signed everything that’s been put before him—all 60 bills, and nothing of any real significance. At this pace, Trump may get to sign 80 bills into public law before the year is out and the 115th Congress could put some 200 laws on the books by the end of next year—the lowest number in four decades, easy.
But maybe what no one counted on was the drag the Trump presidency would have on the Senate and its ability to get anything done. Trump, Ryan and McConnell all deserve a piece of the blame for trying to ram one bad bill after another in a fruitless effort to kill the Affordable Care Act and health insurance for millions of Americans. Those repeated efforts have clearly wasted everyone’s time.
The second factor: the ever-sprawling investigations into the Russian interference in our 2016 election that are being handled by two separate Senate committees, the Judiciary and Intelligence committees. The Senate has also had to confirm Trump cabinet picks and agency heads—the nominations for which are also well behind.
We don’t have a do-nothing Congress, we have a do-too-much Senate. Because when we get down to the numbers, it’s the Senate that seems to be the bottleneck here.
Let’s start with the House of Representatives. So far this year, Congress has introduced a total of 3,828 new bills. Of those, 28 were signed into law and 304 have moved onto the Senate. When you include amendments and resolutions, the pieces of legislation that have been in front of Congress grow to about 5,000, according to the Library of Congress.
The Senate has had a total of 1,846 bills introduced this year with 71 passing the Senate to date and 11 becoming law. With amendments and resolutions, legislation before the Senate this year has totaled 3,286.
And though the Graham-Cassidy bill, the latest effort in the GOP’s plan to kill Obamacare, was DOA, there’s already talk of another one in the works. Which means, we can expect more weeks wasted on Capitol Hill.
And just to put this all into sharp relief, let’s compare this Republican-run government to past presidencies and legislation passed.
Under President Barack Obama, the previous Congress, the 114th, made 327 bills into law. That was a most contentious relationship between a president and House and they still managed to pass that many laws, even with Obama vetoing 10 bills. During his eight years, he averaged 323 laws per congressional term with a high point of his first two years in office when he signed 385 bills into law with the 111th Congress of 2009-2010.
In recent history, President Ronald Reagan signed the most bills into law. The peak was the 100th Congress which put 713 laws on the books from 1987 to 1988. In the eight-year Reagan presidency, each congress averaged 618 new laws.
In the years George H.W. Bush was president, the 101st Congress put 650 laws on the books and the 102nd Congress followed with 590.
President Bill Clinton signed on average 454 laws during his eight years in office, which was exactly matched by that of his successor, President George W. Bush, according to the Library of Congress.
Trump and team are itching to dole out some tax cuts to their rich friends as their next agenda item. If they tackle things as swiftly and brilliantly as they’ve handled the repeal and replacement of the ACA, this administration could just be a lame duck from start to finish—and bring down the 115th Congress with it.
Featured Photo: The Senate votes, and fails, to repeal Obamacare.