When the 115th Congress arrived Jan. 3, the majority had an ambitious agenda. With Republicans in control of the House and Senate, and soon the White House, it was the first time in 10 years they could advance their policy agenda unobstructed by Democrats.
Yet a month later, the GOP-led Congress has produced just three bills for President Donald Trump to sign. Republicans have delayed action on campaign promises such as repealing Obamacare and defunding Planned Parenthood.
In the Senate, Republicans are struggling to overcome Democrat delays in confirming Trump’s Cabinet nominees.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said those delays have made the Senate’s job unnecessarily difficult. In a statement provided to The Daily Signal, he said:
“Democrat obstruction has reached such extreme levels that the smallest number of Cabinet officials have been confirmed in modern history at this point in a presidency. It’s a historic break in tradition, a departure from how newly elected presidents of both parties have been treated in decades past.”
The result is growing frustration among conservatives that the GOP isn’t moving quickly enough to capitalize on Trump’s first 100 days and the limited window of opportunity in Washington.
This week, for instance, the House will work just two days due to a Democrat retreat. Last month, Republicans decamped for three days for their own retreat in Philadelphia.
Last year, when House Speaker Paul Ryan outlined his “A Better Way” agenda, the Wisconsin Republican billed it as the GOP’s blueprint for the coming year.
“This is our game plan for 2017,” Ryan told reporters in October.
A month later, after Trump’s victory in November, a jubilant Ryan boasted about the forthcoming “dawn of a new unified Republican government.”
“If we are going to put our country back on the right track, we have got to be bold and we have to go big. This country is expecting absolutely no less,” Ryan said in November. “We want to make sure we hit the ground running in January, so we can deliver on the new president’s agenda.”
In December, Ryan told CBS News’ “60 Minutes” that “the first bill we’re going to be working on is our Obamacare legislation.”
And while the House took the first step Jan. 13 by approving a resolution establishing the framework for repeal, lawmakers missed their Jan. 27 deadline to draft the Obamacare repeal legislation.
A senior congressional aide told The Daily Signal that Republicans are determined to “provide Obamacare relief for struggling Americans.”
“The Senate began consideration the first day of the new congressional session,” the aide said of the drive to repeal and replace Obamacare, adding:
After [the Senate passed] that resolution, which is the start of the repeal process, the House passed the resolution immediately upon receiving it. House committees are now writing the reconciliation [bill] to repeal and potentially even include some replace.
Ryan also said defunding Planned Parenthood would be included in the budget reconciliation package, just as it was in a 2015 bill the Republicans passed and President Barack Obama vetoed early in 2016.
In 2009, Obama signed into law three significant bills passed by the Democrat-led Congress. They included the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a $787 billion economic stimulus package; the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which proponents said would end pay discrimination against women; and the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, which provided states with new funding and programming for children’s health care coverage through Medicaid.
Congress introduced each bill either right before or soon after Obama was sworn into office; Obama signed them within his first 36 days.
So far in the 115th Congress, lawmakers passed the Mattis waiver, approved a resolution undoing requirements for coal mining operations, and approved another resolution loosening restrictions on the extraction of natural resources.
It’s not as if Congress didn’t know Trump was coming and when he’d be there. They already had the budget reconciliation bill that passed in 2015. All they had to do was write repeal legislation and put it on his desk as early as inauguration day.
Blaming the delays on the Dems’ obstruction doesn’t fly, so they’re basically out of excuses. They’re allowing the debate to get muddied and killing the momentum.
They’ve known since November they had the government reins in their hands, and had they an inkling of concern for this country, they would have seen this as their best ever chance and been prepared to get things done.
Perhaps the Republicans are the party without ideas and only paying lip service to their base. By all appearances, it sure seems that way.