It’s been a very bad year for the Republican-controlled Congress. There’s no need for a recap. The fact that Obamacare is still alive and Planned Parenthood is still being funded by taxpayers is enough to highlight their failures to put forward anything meaningful.
This was supposed to be a year when the experienced Republicans on Capitol Hill who have held majorities in the House since 2010 and Senate since 2014 would guide an inexperienced President towards achieving their agenda. Instead, the President has been much more effective on his own. He waited for Obamacare repeal, then took matters into his own hands to hamstring it as much as he could when the Senate failed to deliver. He killed off parts of the bureaucracy that Congress has kept intact and expanding for decades. He forced their hand on DACA, laying out a deadline for Congress to make it into law and promising consequences if they didn’t deliver.
Whether you agree or disagree with his leadership style (I generally disagree), the results he’s delivered have been much better than Capitol Hill’s. The amateur is schooling the pros.
Republicans in Congress had one last chance to do something important before the end of their first year with the President. It wasn’t going to be easy. Tax reform is a monstrous undertaking, but they stepped up and made an effort to deliver. What they produced may or may not be good. It’ll be tested and debated for years to come. One thing is certain: their delivery of the tax bill itself was as comical as their Obamacare repeal attempts. They just can’t seem to get on the same page.
Tuesday, the House easily passed the tax bill. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan led a surging GOP that seemed unified in purpose for once. There were 12 Republicans opposed to it, but as I noted earlier, it was likely planned to protect their seats because the bill is most unpopular in their states and their votes weren’t needed for passage.
Part of the game is winning or maintaining majorities in the House and Senate. Representatives and Senators are forced to balance between what they need to do to get reelected and what the party needs to push forward their agenda. The most glaring example of this attempt at balance was in play today as the House voted on the tax bill. Twelve Republicans voted against the bill and are now being called traitors by many in the GOP. They aren’t traitors. They were doing what they thought they needed to do in order to survive the midterm elections.
The Senate followed suit by passing it with every Republican present voting in favor. Senator John McCain is going through brain cancer treatments in Arizona, but his vote wasn’t needed.
Even after weeks of working out the kinks and bringing the House and Senate bills together, they still hit a snag. Two provisions in the final bill had to be struck in order for the bill to pass parliamentary procedures and keep it under budget reconciliation in the Senate. This is important because it makes it impossible for the Democrats to filibuster it.
Why were these provisions still in the final bill? Did nobody think to make certain they weren’t going to hit this snag? It would have been a relatively flawless win for the beleaguered party, but they had to make a rookie mistake to taint it, even if only a little.
That’s the story of the GOP in 2017.
It would seem as if they’re not used to being a unified caucus. One would think they were based upon their actions and promises during the Obama years. They easily passed multiple attacks on Obamacare, including a clean and full repeal of the ACA in 2015 to force the President into a veto. Now that they don’t have to fear the veto, they’re acting like morons who don’t have the stomach for delivering on their promises. It’s easy to be bold and attack Obamacare when they know their efforts will end in veto. Without the cover a a presidential veto, they’ve become careless, disjointed, and gutless.
Today, the House will pass the bill. Again. President Trump will have an event at the White House heralding the efforts and promising wonderful things in the months to come. GOP voters and donors will sigh in relief that the party didn’t throw up a goose egg in their first year with Trump. Yet with all this, they’re still ending the year looking like keystone cops.