Speaker Boehner’s Do-Nothing Congress
It’s simply an objective fact that this Congress is on track to be the least productive in modern history, owing largely to the inability or unwillingness of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to move almost even the most basic legislation through the House of Representatives. That’s right, the Senate is a font of bipartisan comity and productivity compared to the do-nothing House.
Asked about this yesterday on Face the Nation, Speaker Boehner offered up this thoroughly ridiculous defense of Congress’ historically unproductive session:
We should not be judged on how many new laws we create. We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal. We’ve got more laws than the administration could ever enforce.
Even by Boehner’s own bizarre standard, Congress has still been spectacularly ineffective. House Republicans have not successfully repealed Obamacare or Wall Street reform, but they have wasted millions of dollars and weeks of time trying — and failing — to do so. As MSNBC’s Steve Benen noted, “In other words, by Boehner’s own standards for evaluating Congress on the merits, he’s failing.”
All that said, we’ll take the Speaker at his word. With that in mind, here’s some things we’d love for him to get to repealing as soon as possible:
- The Defense of Marriage Act: While the Supreme Court threw out the part of DOMA that prohibited the federal government from recognizing legally valid same-sex marriages, the part that allows states to refuse to do so is still on the books. Congress should get rid of that part too.
- Giveaways to Big Oil: Oil prices are once again creeping up, which is a good reminder that oil companies don’t need billions of dollars a year in giveaways from taxpayers. Some of these giveaways have been on the books for a century, so they definitely seem ripe for repeal at a time of sky-high oil prices and Big Oil profits to go along with them.
- Restrictions on Abortion in the District of Columbia: Unable to impose their will on the nation, Republicans have used Congress’ enduring control over the affairs of the District of Columbia’s more than 600,000 disenfranchised residents to advance various pet causes. One of them has been to forbid the District from using funds generated by the taxpayers of the District themselves (i.e local, not federal funds) to pay for abortions for low-income women.
- Giveaways to Hedge Fund and Private Equity Managers: The so-called “carried interest” loophole is the one that allows hedge fund and private equity managers — and hedge fund and private equity managers alone — to avoid paying their fair share in taxes on billions in income by erroneously classifying ordinary income as investment income. It has no economic justification and allows people like Mitt Romney to get away with paying a lower tax rate than many middle class workers.
- Restrictions on Commonsense Gun Violence Prevention Measures: Similar to the aforementioned restrictions on abortion in Washington, D.C., Congress has also seen fit to put numerous restrictions on the ability of the federal government to take commonsense steps to reduce gun violence. These NRA-backed “riders” in annual appropriations bills, including those preventing even basic public health research on gun violence and measures meant to reduce gun trafficking, should be repealed instead of being extended for yet another year.
We could go on. In fact, there’s nearly $1 TRILLION in wasteful and unnecessary giveaways in the tax code alone that Congress could repeal today. Boehner also said yesterday that his top priority is repairing the nation’s finances. If reducing the deficit and repealing things are his top priorities, these giveaways would seem to be a good place for Boehner to start.
BOTTOM LINE: Any way you slice it, Congress is historically unproductive and historically unpopular. Instead of finding up-is-down, black-is-white excuses, Speaker Boehner should start allowing the House of Representatives — the whole House, not just the Republican caucus — to work its will and accomplish something for the American people. If Speaker Boehner is unable or unwilling to lead on issues like immigration reform with a pathway to earned citizenship, he can at least get out of the way.