Jonathan Bernstein: Republicans Too Busy Ranting on Fox News!
to actually write any bills. Are Republicans even trying? There is good evidence to suggest they are not. While I have been saying that the GOP is broken and hopelessly dysfunctional, Rachel Maddow has come up with a new name for part of that dysfunction. Republicans are post policy. To some extent, that is because they will simply oppose whatever Barack Obama proposes, but there is also an even more interesting aspect of it, that they simply have given up on and lost the capacity for developing policy ideas. And, no, it is not just because they are conservatives, and conservatives are inherently less likely to have policy ideas. A look at the evidence will demonstrate this. Here is the story: Over the last couple of decades, majority parties in the House of Representatives have taken to reserving the very first bill numbers for their party's agenda. Normally, bills are just numbered in order, when they are introduced: HR 637 is usually the bill introduced just after HR 636, and just before HR 638. But that is just custom, and at some point a new custom evolved to save HR 1 through HR 5, and then through HR 10, for important party agenda bills. Which leads to the embarrassing fact that no one seems to have noticed about this year's House Republicans. Over 100 days into the current Congress, their agenda is almost completely empty. In fact, of the 10 reserved slots, there is only one bill filed. That is HR 3, a bill to force the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. Even that is pretty minimal, it is far more of a symbolic position than it is an energy policy. And even that took until March 15, to introduce. But at least, it is a real bill, and to their credit it is a substantive measure, even if it is not an overall energy policy. Beyond that, Republicans have announced that HR 1 is reserved for a tax reform bill. There is, however, no bill, at least not so far. For the rest of them, and for that matter for HR1, nothing. All you get is Reserved for the Speaker. That is pathetic. It was not true two years ago, when the Republican majority took over in 2009. By the end of the 112th Congress, which was hardly a high achiever, Republicans had filed bills for nine of the 10 reserved spots. HR 1, that year was for continuing appropriations, and was filed on February 11. HR 2 was to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and was introduced on January 5. In fact, by April 2011, eight of the 10 bills had been dropped into the hopper.