Has the House GOP Been Wasting Our Time?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 27 2011 11:31 AM

Has the House GOP Been Wasting Our Time?

Tina Dupuy runs down the list of bills passed by the Republican House, starting with a guffaw: They've turned 14 bills into laws, and by this point the last three Congresses had turned 76 bills into laws.

But when House Republicans are actually in session, it's not exactly like they're doing nothing. They've made a point of passing bills that "send a message." Over and over, they've brought legislation to the floor that was doomed to die in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Why? To put taxpayer money where Republican congresspersons' mouths (and votes) are. Yes, the House Republicans of 112th Congress are having a love affair with the symbolic vote.
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This isn't really fair. Oh, yes, some of these bills were stupid stunts. HR 1076, to defund NPR? Pointless, didn't save much money. But the "Restarting American Offshore Leasing Act" wasn't just an ideological stunt, nor was "the HAMP Termination Act." The latter is a pretty objectively good idea if there's something mooted to replace it. No, the GOP in the House is suffering from the same thing that the president and the Senate are suffering from -- debtmania. The debt panic has subsumed all other issues. (Poor Darrell Issa can't even get real attention for his investigation of the ATF's botched-up gun running sting.)

And are we supposed to knock Congress for not passing many bills? That's the point! This Congress started on a two weeks on/one week off schedule because Republicans want to govern less. Plenty of new members of Congress want to deregulate, cut taxes, and do nothing else. Judging their success by judging how many bills they've passed is the exact wrong way to look at them.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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