What in the world are Republicans in Congress doing with their time?
We’re now nearly a month into the Trump era. Republicans have a 52 vote majority in the Senate, and a 239 vote majority in the House. Here is a complete list of the major legislation proposed and passed by that Republican majority, with President Donald Trump in the White House ready and eager to sign into law conservative priorities:
Yup, that’s it. Nothing.
Jim Geraghty of National Review notes that Republicans in Congress have satisfied themselves in recent weeks with chipping away around the edges of the Obama agenda. He cites a bill cancelling an SEC regulation on oil and gas payment disclosures, another bill overturning a relatively minor gun control rule, and a bill closing a loophole in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
Meanwhile, let’s check in with what President Obama and the Democratic Congress had passed by this point in Obama’s first term: the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a much-ballyhooed extension of legal liability for companies regarding sexual discrimination; and the $787 billion stimulus package.
Today, Republicans in Congress struggle to come up with a strategy to repeal and replace Obamacare, a promise they’ve now been making for seven long years. They didn’t have a tax bill ready to go. They didn’t have an immigration bill ready to go. They’ve been allowing Trump to take the lead, governing by executive order, sitting around twiddling their thumbs.
Some of this is cowardice. They’re so frightened of Trump that they don’t want to pass legislation without his explicit go-ahead – they don’t want to run up against his ego in the early days of his administration. They’d rather see if Trump is going to sink or swim; they’re content to let Trump lead. If Trump succeeds, then they follow his lead; if he fails, then they jump to the fore and take the helm.
That’s a problem. It means tying the Republican ship to Trump rather than providing Trump the policy wins he needs in order to anchor his the listing ship. The promise made to many Republican voters was that with a Republican Congress and a Republican President, Paul Ryan would be helping to drive the agenda. So far, he hasn’t done much of anything, and neither has Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. If they sit around waiting for Trump to define the agenda rather than passing legislation that their constituents want, and then working with Trump to sign it, they’ll be staking all their chips on Trump’s success. That’s a risky business.
And the clock is running, as Noah Rothman states. Most presidents get their chief agenda items passed early. Obamacare was done by March 2010. That’s because as presidencies age, issues build up, resistance accrues, fractures appear. Enthusiasm is highest early on.
The bloom is likely to come off the rose slightly faster with Trump than it did with Obama among the public – Republicans are likely to face just as much pushback from Democrats as Democrats did from Republicans. That means time is of the essence. It’s time for the legislature to stop acting like a Constitutional vestigial organ and start doing its job, instead of leaving Trump on the front lines to lead the way and take the body shots.