Is this the worst conference ever? Let’s count the ways

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 22: With his head bowed, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) rushes from his office past reporters and into the House Chamber ahead of a vote on a federal budget bill at the U.S. Capitol on March 22, 2024 in Washington, DC. The controversial legislation could pass the House of Representatives and head to the Senate before the government shutdown deadline at midnight. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Is this the worst conference ever? Let’s count the ways

On Ed

Jackie Calmes

March 28, 2024

More than halfway through the current two-year Congress, lawmakers there are recalling the old schoolyard joke about slackers: They’re really good at recess.

This week before Easter is the first of two weeks that the House and Senate will start, although it seems like they only took a two-week break yesterday for President’s Day. Luckily for them, members of Congress get breaks no matter how well they perform, just like kids in elementary school. And they haven’t performed well at all, which explains the above quota points: legislators don’t do much legislating.

This Congress will be the least productive since the Great Depression. Even the low number of laws enacted is somewhat exaggerated, as the House of Representatives and Senate, unable to agree on government funding for months, have repeatedly passed emergency bills to prevent shutdowns.

Members finally finished the budget measures before rushing out the door last weekend to start their spring break nearly six months into the budget year. 1. Expect more craftsmanship.

However, do not wish pox on either house or party. The blame lies with the House of Representatives and the Republican Party MAGA, which took charge there just over a year ago.

Republicans in the House of Representatives cannot govern because so many of them are anti-government. They don’t want Washington to work when they can make partisan hay out of any disorder. They cannot pass necessary laws because they fail to compromise, an essential act at any time but especially when the other party controls the Senate and the White House.

Consider House Republicans’ rejection last month of a bipartisan,


immigration law of the sort


demanded. Some said the quiet part out loud. “I’m not willing to do too much at this point to help a Democrat and help Joe Biden’s approval rating,” said Texas Rep. Troy Nehls. And the House was only able to give the government budget its most important task thanks to the votes of the Democrats. A majority of the Republican majority voted against it.

Legislation is simply not the priority of Republicans in the House of Representatives. That has ousted President Biden and his Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, but it is also undermining those efforts. Republicans impeached Mayorkas on their second try, not because of actual major crimes or misdemeanors, but because of politics: he oversees border security, and blaming a Democrat for the migrant crush at the southern border is a good issue for Republicans. But that’s a terrible precedent, and more than a month later, they still haven’t sent the message documents to the Senate.

As for impeaching Biden, the Republican Javerts did that everything but stopped. Their hearings have spectacularly failed to uncover presidential misconduct, leaving them without enough Republican votes to proceed. This week, the lead investigator, Representative James Comer of Kentucky, donors told in a fundraising letter that instead of impeaching Biden, he will send a criminal referral to the Justice Department for action once Donald Trump is elected.

Forty years ago last month, I started covering Congress, and in all that time, I have never witnessed a more self-defeating, unconstructive and pathetic performance by a majority party. I knew it consciously when now-former Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado explained to CNN why he resigned last Friday: It’s the worst year to be in Congress in 40, 50 years.

Incredibly, Buck wasn’t the first Republican in the House of Representatives to simply walk away from the two-year job voters at home elected him to, and he won’t be the last. Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California left office at the end of 2023, three months after extremist House Republicans made him the first speaker in U.S. history to be impeached. Ohio Representative Bill Johnson left in January. And Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, once considered a Republican newcomer, is leaving next month.

If he leaves, Republicans in the House of Representatives will be left with just a one-vote margin. That requires party unity to successfully legislate, as House Democrats demonstrated with their slim majority in the productive 2021-2022 Congress. Yet the Republicans are as fickle as any party, and their humiliations of the past fifteen months have only made them less alike.

The division among Republicans is so great that McCarthy is an unfortunate replacement

as a speaker,

Mike Johnson, has used the so-called suspension calendar to approve the necessary bills. For a long time, this practice was mainly reserved for non-controversial legislation, expedites House action, but requires support from two-thirds of the members rather than a majority vote. With yes votes from Democrats and some Republicans, Johnson can reach that threshold, as he ultimately did on the budget.

This reliance on Democrats for bills to pass fueled the anti-McCarthy rebellion and kept both chambers of Congress frozen for most of October as Republicans in the House of Representatives fought among themselves to replace him. And indeed, the incomparably divisive Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Mar-a-Lago, Georgia, made a motion after the budget vote to impeach Johnson, just as McCarthy was impeached, if he continues to work with the Democrats. Which is what Johnson wants, because Republicans like her leave him no choice.

The big test ahead is aid to Ukraine, which Greene and many of the far-right Republicans in the House of Representatives oppose. In February, Johnson declared that the Senate’s bipartisan aid package for Ukraine (and Israel, Gaza and Taiwan)

some DOA in the house.

But still, under pressure, hey On Friday, the House vowed to take action to help the U.S. ally against its Russian invaders. With votes from the Democrats. When the members return from recess.

Speaking of recessions, voters could give the do-nothing Republican majority a permanent majority if they put Democrats back in control of the House of Representatives in November. The bell can’t ring fast enough.



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