President Donald Trump is angry at House Democrats for “getting nothing done in Congress.” He may want to quarrel with his own party instead.
Trump released a tweet tirade on Thursday morning admonishing Democrats for not making enough progress on infrastructure, health care, and veterans issues. The tweet came after an explosive meeting on infrastructure between Trump and Democrats the day before, which the president walked out of.
“Their heart is not into Infrastructure, lower drug prices, pre-existing conditions and our great Vets,” Trump tweeted. “All they are geared up to do, six committees, is squander time, day after day, trying to find anything which will be bad for me.”
....drug prices, pre-existing conditions and our great Vets. All they are geared up to do, six committees, is squander time, day after day, trying to find anything which will be bad for me. A pure fishing expedition like this never happened before, & it should never happen again!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2019
Trump is objectively wrong; House Democrats haven’t been squandering time. In addition to their investigations, they’ve been passing legislation at a rapid clip. In all, the House has taken up 51 bills, resolutions, and suspensions since January — 49 of which they’ve passed. This includes a slate of bills to attempt to end the longest government shutdown in history, the result of a protracted fight between Trump and Congress over border wall funding.
Ironically, over the past two weeks, the House has passed bills to address most of the issues Trump mentioned in his tweet. They recently passed a bill to lower prescription drug prices, and another one to protect preexisting conditions. The House also passed nine bills on veterans issues this week alone, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi noted at her weekly press conference. On Thursday, Democrats tried to present Trump their infrastructure plan before he walked out of their meeting.
So if the House is passing all these bills, why does it seem like Congress isn’t getting anything done? Welcome to the reality of divided government in Washington. The vast majority of House Democrats’ agenda has hit a dead end in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has dubbed himself the “grim reaper” of Democratic legislation. Pelosi has blasted the Senate leader for embracing this role, saying he’s working for special interests in Washington, rather than the people of the United States.
“The Senate is the graveyard where bills that pass in the Congress, that have bipartisan support in the country, go to die,” Pelosi said at a recent press conference.
Little is happening in Congress, but it’s not for Democrats’ lack of trying
Despite Trump’s declaration that it’s impossible for Democrats to “investigate and legislate at the same time,” House Democrats have been doing a lot of legislating over the past few months.
But Trump isn’t the only one with a perception that very little is happening in Congress. Congress’s approval rating is a dismal 20 percent, with 77 percent disapproval, according to Gallup. There’s a pervasive sense of legislative paralysis on Capitol Hill.
Even when the House of Representatives was controlled by Republicans in 2017 and 2018, the two major legislative accomplishments McConnell, Trump, and House Speaker Paul Ryan had were a massive GOP tax cut and a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill in 2018. Since Democrats took control of the House, the few things they’ve been able to agree with Senate Republicans on include a bill to reopen the federal government after three weeks, a resolution to end US involvement in the war in Yemen (vetoed by Trump), and the recent disaster aid agreement (which isn’t finalized, as one House GOP lawmaker has held it up).
Still, there’s little policymaking in the Senate, where McConnell has mostly been focused on confirming nominations to the judiciary and Trump’s Cabinet.
“The one really cool legislature is now gone,” said Josh Huder, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute. “If you’re really interested in confirming judges, it’s the place to be.”
It’s so rare the Senate votes on a bill that Roll Call reporter Niels Lesniewski tweeted an alert when members took up the TRACED Act on Thursday, a bipartisan bill to tack on heavy penalties for robocalls.
The Senate is voting on legislation.— Niels Lesniewski (@nielslesniewski) May 23, 2019
A few hours later, the House and Senate struck a long-awaited deal on disaster aid to help areas of the United States devastated by flooding and deadly storms. But besides that and passing another budget deal, there’s little hope that both sides of the aisle will agree on something between now and the 2020 election.
There’s a clear political strategy to McConnell not working with Pelosi on her agenda. He’s staring down 2020, where Senate Republicans are defending more seats than Democrats. Plus he has his own seat in Kentucky to worry about (though McConnell losing that is unlikely). No matter what, there’s little incentive for McConnell to hand Democrats any legislative wins.
That has lent itself to a sense of legislative paralysis on Capitol Hill. In the upper chamber, there’s a perception that the power of individual senators to filibuster bills or introduce legislation has diminished. It’s a dynamic that’s visible in the fact many high-profile potential Senate candidates like Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams have declined a Senate bid this year, opting instead to run for president or mull another gubernatorial bid.
Much of the media focus these days is on Democrats’ investigations, rather than their legislation, because that’s where the action is. Trump’s attempts to thwart these investigations have turned into what Pelosi and some of her committee chairs have dubbed a constitutional crisis. But even though Washington is consumed with investigations news, it doesn’t mean policy work isn’t happening. It just means it isn’t getting talked about as much.
Here’s a list of bills the House has passed since January
House Democrats have passed a wide range of bills since they came to power in January, ranging from a sweeping anti-corruption and pro-democracy reform known as HR 1, to bills to save net neutrality, establish background checks for guns, and put the United States back in the Paris Climate Accord.
They have also put a large emphasis on health care, a defining issue of the 2018 election after Trump and Senate Republicans attempted to pass a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Democrats have focused on bills to lower prescription drug costs, protect preexisting conditions, and condemning the Trump administration’s legal battle to strike down the ACA in the courts.
Much of this agenda is sitting in the Senate. The few things House Democrats and Senate Republicans have agreed on: disaster relief aid, reopening the government after the shutdown, the resolution to end US involvement in the Yemen war, a bill to protect public lands, and a resolution disapproving of Trump’s use of emergency powers.
But on major policy issues — like health care and infrastructure, or even bipartisan ones like net neutrality or the Equal Pay Act — Democrats’ bills are continuing to languish in the Senate. Here’s a list of bills and resolutions the House has passed so far.
- HR 259 — Medicaid Extenders Act of 2019
- House Resolution 271 — Condemning the Trump Administration’s Legal Campaign to Take Away Americans’ Health Care
- HR 986 — Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act of 2019
- HR 987 — Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act
- HR 1520, the Purple Book Continuity Act (bill aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs)
- HR 1503, the Orange Book Transparency Act of 2019 (bill aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs)
- HR 1 — For the People Act of 2019
- HR 5 — Equality Act
- HR 7 — Paycheck Fairness Act
- HR 124 — Expressing opposition to banning service in the Armed Forces by openly transgender individuals
- HR 8 — Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019
- HR 1112 — Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019
- HR 9 — Climate Action Now Act
- HR 1331 — Local Water Protection Act
- S 47 — National Resources Management Act
- HR 2578 — National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act of 2019
- HR 840 — Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act
- HJ Res. 37 — Directing the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress
- SJ Res. 7 — To direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress
- HR 31 — Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019
- HJ Res. 30 — Disapproving the President’s proposal to take an action relating to the application of certain sanctions with respect to the Russian Federation
- H.Con.Res. 24 — Expressing the sense of Congress that the report of Special Counsel Mueller should be made available to the public and to Congress.
- HR 1585 — Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019
- HR 1500 — Consumers First Act
- HR 1994 — SECURE Act
- HR 1644 — Save the Internet Act of 2019
- HR 2157 — Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2019
- HR 269 — Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019
- HR 251 — Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Program Extension Act
- S 24 — Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019
- HR 430 — TANF Extension Act of 2019
- Concurring in the Senate Amendments to HR 251 — Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standard Program Extension Act
- HR 790 — Federal Civilian Workforce Pay Raise Fairness Act of 2019
- HJ Res. 46 — Relating to a national emergency declared by the President on February 15, 2019
- H Res. 183 — Condemning anti-Semitism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values and aspirations that define the people of the United States and condemning anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against minorities as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contrary to the values and aspirations of the United States, as amended
- H Res. 194 — Rule Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1644 and H.R. 2021
- HR 2480 — Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act
- HR 375 — To amend the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 to reaffirm the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for Indian Tribes (also known as the “Carcieri Fix”)
Votes to end the government shutdown
- HR 21 — Making appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, and for other purposes
- HJ Res. 1 — Making further continuing appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security for fiscal year 2019, and for other purposes
- HR 265 — Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019
- HR 267 — Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019
- HR 266 — Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019
- HR 268 — Disaster Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2019 (Disaster Supplemental and short-term continuing resolution through Feb. 8)
- HR 264 — Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act
- HJ Res. 28 — Further Additional Continuing Appropriations Act, 2019 (Short-term continuing resolution through Feb. 28)
- HR 648 — Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (Six conferenced bills minibus)
- HJ Res. 31 — Making further continuing appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security for fiscal year 2019 (Short-term homeland continuing resolution through Feb. 28)
- Conference Report to Accompany HJ Res 31 – Making consolidated appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, and for other purposes