While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and the Democratic-controlled Senate look to accomplish a laundry list of items with Congress back in session, House Republicans revealed their plan for the New Year. The plan is simple–do as little as humanly possible. House Republican leadership unveiled the new House work calendar and it shows that the House will only be in session for 97 days prior to Election Day and 112 days through the end of the year.
Basically, what House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) are telling the American people is that if you thought 2013 was the worst year ever for Congress, then you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Last year, the House was in session for 118 days prior to Election Day and 135 days total. In total, Congress passed 65 laws, the fewest in history. With this almost non-existent work schedule, it appears that the record is not only in doubt but could be obliterated.
Perhaps it is a bit presumptuous to think that House Republicans won’t at least try to get things done when Congress is in session. That would be fair, except that there was basically no communication between the GOP leadership and its caucus once the last session adjourned on December 13th until Cantor sent them a memo a few days ago saying that they will concentrate much of 2014 on providing oversight to Obamacare. Basically, even if the rank-and-file members wanted to concentrate on a broader scope this year, leadership is going to steer the ship towards a whirlpool of Obamacare whining, attaching the Keystone XL pipeline to any bill they may pass and not much else.
Look, being that it is a mid-term election year, it is expected that there will be long breaks in the calndar to allow Representatives to go to their home districts and campaign. I understand that. However, knowing that there are major items on the table that need either immediate attention (unemployment insurance, farm bill) or have been getting pushed off for some time now (minimum wage raise, immigration reform), it is despicable that Cantor and Boehner are going to double down on doing nothing as a way of legislating.
Hopefully, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will be extremely outspoken publicly against these tactics being pushed by the GOP. We know that Reid will get many bills through the Senate that will be waiting on House action. Consistently putting heat on Boehner to bring up bills for a vote may not work for the most part, but perhaps the political damage of not addressing pressing issues may be too much for even him and at least a few bills may actually get through. Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), Chairman of the DCCC, pretty much stated that is there strategy:
“We’re not going to let them get away with that. One of the reasons the economy isn’t as strong as it should be is the Republicans’ avowed economic theory is to do nothing, and we intend to make that a central theme for 2014.”
If the Republicans think they can get away with being paid to do nothing and use that as a winning strategy to keep control of the House, they are sadly mistaken if they are hoping that it won’t be used as a negative by Democrats against them. Sure, there are voters out there that want Congress to do absolutely nothing as a matter of principle. There are others that just don’t want to see the President get anything accomplished. However, it would appear that most people in this nation don’t want to see elected lawmakers purposely sit on their hands and continue to get paid taxpayer money.