No one saw this coming…just six months ago most thought that the Republican Party would begin a “legislative blitzkrieg,” passing law after law and shredding previous legislation passed by the Obama administration. Most thought that Obamacare would evaporate and the seven years of pent up GOP frustration would quickly relieve itself in a new healthcare bill. Certainly, there would be no obstruction with the majority in both legislative branches and a Republican in the White House to a quick tax reform. The GOP hadn’t held any power in Washington since 2006; things were about to explode.
But, surprise of all surprises, it seems the GOP controlled Congress can’t seem to pass any meaningful laws at all (which depending on your political persuasion is a good thing). Their divisions within with increasingly radical caucuses have created a mountain that the party can’t seem to climb. The Republican leadership on Capitol Hill is on track to be the least productive group since the Civil War.
Additionally, during Obama’s tenure as President, the GOP Congress was consistently labeled obstructionist and holding back progress. Well, it turns out they are just incompetent they have no clue how to get along with each other, let alone put some meaningful legislation together.
To be fair, President Trump has signed more laws in his time in office that both Obama and Bush before him. But numbers are not the best litmus test. Philip Bump of the Washington Post reported that a majority of the bills signed by Trump have been one page long, which typically means they are symbolic or ceremonial. The Congress has not forwarded any legislation to the president that will significantly change the direction of our politics or economics.
The main culprit for this lack of real progress is polarization. But it may be different than you think. Political scientists at the University of California Los Angeles have released data which tracks the ideological makeup of members of Congress over time. The most significant thing they have found over the last 30 years is that congressional Republicans have become more ideologically extreme, while Democrats have moved marginally to the left but are not much different than they were in 1980. There used to be a whole lot more overlap between more liberal leaning Republicans and more conservative leaning Democrats. The lack of overlap has led to gridlock and dysfunction. There is just too little common ground.
With such extreme positions within one party, the polarization within is now just as problematic as the polarization between parties. David Faris, writing for “The Week,” says “The ideological distance between the Senate’s most liberal member (Maine’s Susan Collins) and the most hard-right Senator (Utah’s Mike Lee) is the same as the chasm between a middle-of-the-pack Democrat like Maryland’s Ben Cardin and a conservative like Iowa’s Joni Ernst.”
This dilemma is compounded by the fact that Republicans control only 52 seats in the Senate and have not been willing, at least for now, to fire the legislative filibuster. The GOP can no longer lean on conservative Democrats to get to 60 votes. Democrats seem to have learned the electoral value of party unity.
These strange circumstances mean that Congress is going to be historically unproductive. David Faris writes, “One measure of what Congress is likely to do the rest of the year is to look at bills that have already passed the House but are awaiting action in the Senate. There are 238 of them. Amazingly, GovTrack gives only 13 a better than 50 percent chance of actually arriving on President Trump’s desk in their current form. If that holds up, Trump will have signed just 56 laws by the beginning of the 2018 congressional session.”
Additionally, during Obama’s tenure as President, the GOP Congress was consistently labeled obstructionist and holding back progress. Well, it turns out they are just incompetent they have no clue how to get along with each other let alone put some meaningful legislation together.
If this pace continues, Trump will preside over the least productive Congress since Millard Fillmore. Which depending on your political preference could be an excellent thing. However, the divide between the parties themselves compounded on the division within the parties themselves is not good for America.
We would like to see your comments about the state of Republican leadership.
Credit: The Week