A Do Nothing Senate?

On May 22 Sen. John Kennedy lambasted the Senate saying, “We have done nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada.”

Now, Democrats have taken to calling the Senate a “legislative graveyard,” but Kennedy is a Louisiana Republican. Believe it. No Democrat would have added that the Senate has approved some great judicial and executive nominees or that House Democrats have accomplished nothing by passing legislation that they know will be “dead on arrival” in the Senate.

Has the Senate actually been doing little except rubber stamp nominees?

A quick check of www.Govtrack.us  and www.Congress.gov confirmed that the Senate has passed 24 bills this year.

And the House?  Three hundred eight-five.

The Senate is not only failing to produce legislation, it‘s sitting on hundreds of bills that have passed the House. For that we’re paying $15,000 a month per senator?

A 1600 percent difference in the number of bills passed indicates the majority leaders–Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Senator Mitch McConnell–think very differently.  .

Pelosi is encouraging House members to develop legislation and vote on issues while actively McConnell blocks Senate members from doing so.

Maybe he fears that disagreements on bills might lead to less solidarity on nominations?

Maybe he fears another revolt like the March 14 vote opposing President Trump’s assumption of emergency powers so he can act without Congressional approval? Twelve Senate Republicans joined Democrats in passing a bill opposing the power grab; the President quickly vetoed it.

And maybe McConnell fears that voters won’t be happy with their senators’ stands on issues they care about?

Pelosi also faces divisions in her ranks–look at the lack of action on the Green New Deal and the open argument about whether to vote on impeaching the President.

Pelosi, however, seems  determined to demonstrate what changes Democrats would make if they could. HR 1 combined reforms from several earlier Democratic bills seeking campaign finance reform, stronger ethics laws, and more voting rights.

Now, every Republican in the House is on record as opposing some needed changes: requiring disclosure of  PAC donors and forbidding coordination between PACS and campaigns; providing more oversight of foreign lobbyists and forbidding members of Congress from using taxpayer money to settle harassment and discrimination suits; and ending gerrymandering and requiring a week’s notice if voting sites are changed.

Instead of responding with reforms Republicans could accept, McConnell made it clear that Republicans are happy with things just as they are.

The House has followed up by reauthorizing flood insurance, block grants to states, and the Violence against Women Act; by passing more than a half dozen bills to benefit veterans including one aimed at preventing suicides; and by authorizing studies on ocean acidification, extending benefits to small businesses, and expanding child protection services–and action on 300 other issues.

The recent passage of H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 was a bold step. One might call it daring if the action wasn’t backed by 100 major corporations, the Chamber of Congress, and 77 percent of “likely 2020 voters”  (Global Strategy Group poll).

McConnell said he might allow some changes if the House agrees to funding the wall.

The House also passed two gun-related bills recently–one would require a background check for gun sales other than those to close relatives; the second would allow longer than three days for background checks.

Daring–or not? A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 92 percent of respondents, including 89 percent of Republicans, in favor of universal background checks.

The Senate won’t respond. Republicans voting either way would anger their voters–and they need every vote they can get.

 

Note this editorial by Judy Ferro published by Idaho Press – 2019

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