Friday morning, the House of Representatives easily passed a one-week continuing resolution to avoid a partial government shutdown. The Senate followed suit on the bill, and in so doing proved the utter futility of Republican control of Congress in the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency.
While the media will hang the apparent lack of Trump’s legislative accomplishments on the necks of the administration, ultimately this is not a failure of the executive branch. In this constitutional republic, it is Congress that holds the legislative power; the House of Representatives and Senate make the laws. They are responsible for the legislative policy of the Trump administration, and they’ve blown the first 100 days.
The failed negotiations over the spending bill Congress must now take up next week is the capstone on congressional Republican incompetence and the failed leadership of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.. The Republican Party has not received a single concession from the Democrats to implement any of President Trump’s agenda … and they will not.
Democrats succeeded in bullying the GOP, threatening a government shutdown over border-wall funding and other “poison pill” riders.
"Our position has been clear, and it's nothing new: no poison pill riders. The sooner we can resolve this issue, the quicker we can have an agreement on appropriations for 2017, so I object," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Thursday. Schumer prevented the Senate from automatically approving the short-term continuing resolution on grounds that changes to environmental regulations and Dodd-Frank protections are unacceptable.
While the Democrats fight to protect every inch of the leviathan federal government they explicitly support, the Republicans – who pretend to seek to put up a fight on the campaign trail – roll over once they have to take a tough vote.
Observe what has become of the Republican agenda, as timid or cowardly GOP members refuse to fight for smaller government.
Obamacare repeal? That promise was broken and now seems delayed indefinitely, as liberal Republicans fight to keep the core parts of the law they like, and are otherwise afraid of making major changes to any entitlements.
Tax reform? The big announcement that came from Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House adviser Gary Cohn Wednesday left out the important details, as both administration officials had nothing but vague answers for reporters and essentially said Congress is “working on it.”
Build the wall? Republicans capitulated after Democrats’ threats to shut down the government.
Speaking of government spending, where is the budget? Where is the congressional action on President Trump’s skinny budget? Why is a Republican-controlled Congress still using soft continuing resolutions to pass short-term spending in place of hard budgets and a return to separate appropriations bills? That’s another broken promise.
What cuts to government spending are happening? None. Why does Planned Parenthood remain funded? Because Democrats will shut down the government to fight for baby murder. But you won’t hear a single Republican speak in those terms.
And then there are the 127 federal court vacancies that need filling. Where is the Trump administration on nominating conservative judges to fill those vacancies? Where is the Senate on taking those nominations up?
Apologists for Congress’ (lack of) accomplishments in the first 100 will note the regulations that have been repealed under the Congressional Review Act. Trump has signed 13 reversals of Obama administration policies into law.
But were Republicans actually interested in dealing a unifying, single blow to the administrative state, the Senate would take up the REINS Act.
The REINS Act is legislation designed to require regulators to seek congressional approval for their most expensive regulations. It passed the House of Representatives in early January, and since then the Senate hasn’t budged on it. What gives?
President Trump promised to “work hard to get it passed” on the campaign trail.
"I will sign the REINS Act should it reach my desk as President and more importantly I will work hard to get it passed," Trump previously told American Commitment President Phil Kerpen. "The monstrosity that is the Federal Government with its pages and pages of rules and regulations has been a disaster for the American economy and job growth. The REINS Act is one major step toward getting our government under control."
Nearly every Republican agrees that regulations need to be scaled back, and to a large degree that has been the focus of the Trump administration’s executive actions. But when it comes to legislation from Congress, Republicans are taking time to repeal several regulations individually instead of pursuing sweeping conservative reforms.
The U.S. Senate has not even been in session for 100 days this year. Including weekends, the Senate has taken 54 days off since the session began in January. What have they done to deserve the vacation time?
Like it or not, voters are going to demand that this Congress make the legislative trains run on time before the 2018 midterm elections. Given the GOP’s failure to keep basic promises so far, with no change on the horizon, what campaign promises can Republicans make in 2018 that voters will believe?
We will soon find out if “at least we’re not Democrats” is enough to get Republicans elected in this country.