2023 was the year of do-nothing Republicans in the House of Representatives. In 2024 they will do worse than nothing

(Mariam Zuhaib/Associated Press)

2023 was the year of do-nothing Republicans in the House of Representatives. In 2024 they will do worse than nothing

Opinion piece, Elections 2024

Jackie Calmes

January 4, 2024

It’s a new year, but the same old mess


Congress. Instead of making a fresh start, lawmakers will return to their stale, dead-end arguments and legislative deadlock next week


And now the reason why they are stuck in it

the mess is an old story: in 2023 we saw repeated dysfunction of the MAGA Republicans who narrowly took control of the House of Representatives last January, rendering that chamber virtually ungovernable and one of the least productive years in the history of the Congress delivered. Only a few dozen, mostly minor bills became law, a fraction of the usual number.

The House and Senate went to work for the holidays, still bloodied from unfinished sausage production. To use another metaphor from the legislature, they kicked the can down the street, plural, to 2024.

Yet agreement on long-standing issues, spending, aid to Ukraine and immigration is hardly easier to reach in an election year; The distraction of the presidential primaries begins this month in Iowa and New Hampshire. Then there’s the biggest distraction of all for Republicans in the House of Representatives: their top priority to impeach President Biden, on grounds yet to be determined.

What awaits us in 2024 is more the misgovernance that results when one of our two major parties transforms from a small governing party into an unashamedly anti-government bloc.

The federal budget year is already three months old and Congress has still not finalized spending bills for the government’s annual operations. In 2023, House Republicans caused two near-shutdowns in four months. This year we have received two such threats within a month.

That’s because Congress, at the urging of House Republicans and their new leader, MAGA Chairman Mike Johnson, illogically expanded emergency funding for federal programs in separate bills with separate cutoff dates. One measure, which includes money for agriculture, transportation, energy and veterans programs, expires Jan. 19; the second package, covering other major domestic programs and the Pentagon, expires on February 2.

That means when the House and Senate return, they will have just 10 days (including a break for the long Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend) to reach an agreement before their first budget deadline. Here’s a New Year’s prediction: The antics of Republicans in the House of Representatives will force Congress to miss its first deadline, triggering a partial government shutdown even as the second funding deadline looms.

The hapless Republicans in the House of Representatives say they won’t support another relief bill or the typical omnibus package that combines all government funding, but they are too divided to pass the 12 spending bills separately. Their already slim majority shrank even further with the resignation at the end of the year of dethroned chairman Kevin McCarthy and the expulsion of fabulous fraudster George Santos;

a third Republican, Ohio Rep. Bill Johnson, resigns on January 21

. And yet the hardliners in the House of Representatives are increasing their demands for more cuts and expansions of the culture war against abortion, drag shows and the like, oblivious to the opposition of other Republicans in the House of Representatives, let alone that of the the Democratic-controlled Senate.

In short, the two houses of Congress are further apart than ever. They haven’t even agreed on the final figures for the spending accounts, a prerequisite for setting funding levels for programs within them.

And virtually no one is confident that the new speaker can rally his caucus. Johnson is among the anti-government hardliners, not the pragmatists; he considers the Bible his legislative manual and follows Donald Trump as his North Star.

As a fellow Louisianan, popular outgoing governor. John Bel Edwards, recently told Politico: I would feel better about Mike Johnson being Speaker of the House of Representatives if I felt like he was someone who really believed in making government work.

Failure to pass key bills is just one aspect of Republican dysfunction. Blocking accounts is another thing, and they are good at it.

So, as it happens, Congress has not approved additional aid to Ukraine since late 2022, when Democrats controlled the House of Representatives. As the second anniversary of Russia’s unprovoked invasion approaches, the two parties in the House of Representatives and the Senate still support continued support for Ukraine as it is critical to our national security and to Europe. Yet Republican leaders in the House of Representatives are echoing Trump, Vladimir Putin’s friend, in opposition.

They are joined by Senate Republicans, including Ukraine supporters, who are pushing for Biden and Democrats to support an immigration crackdown in exchange for more aid. Yet they cannot agree on what the new immigration measures should be. Republicans in the House of Representatives want much tougher changes on asylum, deportations, detentions and border security than their counterparts in the Senate.

A bipartisan group of senators continued negotiations on an immigration compromise over the holidays. However, any deal would likely spark opposition in the House of Representatives from both the right and left.

Meanwhile, without compromise, Johnson and about 60 other Republicans in the House of Representatives opted for a photo op, traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday.

Democrats are no less divided than Republicans on border issues, between progressives who oppose tough restrictions and centrists who would like to see Biden kill virtually any immigration deal, to water down what has become a dangerous election year problem for their party.

Despite all of Congress’ challenges in funding the government, addressing decades-old migration problems and responding to Europe’s worst war since World War II and a new one engulfing the Middle East House, Republicans signaled last month that their focus for 2024 is what?

Accuse Biden.

They reportedly want to draft an article of impeachment this month, perhaps for bribery. But they have neither the goods on Biden nor the votes.

I haven’t seen any [evidence] Still, so far that shows the president has done something wrong, Ohio Rep. Dave Joyce, a former Republican prosecutor, told NBC News just before Christmas.

It doesn’t matter that the Javerts among his fellow party members will continue to argue the opposite. And they will continue to look for evidence, as they have done for more than a year.

As if they had nothing else to do.



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