Kicking to the curb
By Seymour Klierly
With the end of a short work period in the Capitol, members of Congress can now turn their attention to the midterm elections across the country. Voters in November will have the opportunity to choose an entirely new House of Representatives and one third of the United States Senate. There are less than two months for both political parties to make their case for leading the legislative branch for the next two years.
At a weekly Republican press conference, Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, R-KS, focused on the legislation that has already passed the House and has not seen any action in the upper chamber. “Three hundred fifty-two bills are sitting on Harry Reid’s desk, awaiting action,” Jenkins said. “Ninety-eight percent of them passed with bipartisan support. Fifty percent of the bills passed unanimously, with no opposition. Seventy percent of the bills passed with 2/3 support in the House. And over 55 bills were introduced by Democrats. Three hundred fifty-two bills. Why won’t Harry Reid act?”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, is not afraid to pass the buck to the Republican Party. During a floor speech, he tore into members from the other side of the aisle for not advancing more of President Barack Obama’s legacy legislation. “Republicans rejected an increase in the minimum wage, essentially relegating millions of hardworking Americans to poverty,” Reid said. “Republicans refused to give unemployment benefits to the very long-term unemployed. Republicans rejected the Bring Jobs Home Act, which would end the absurd practice of American workers bankrolling the outsourcing of their very own jobs.”
While leadership in both parties will continue to avoid compromising before the election, the divided legislative branch is functioning about as well as it can given the two different parties in control. According to Sarah Binder, a congressional scholar at the Brookings Institution, “The two chambers’ majorities have different agendas and priorities and different ideas of what constitutes a ‘problem.’ And even when the parties agree on the need to address an issue, their prescriptions differ. That complicates the legislative process, and in the current period of high partisanship, it seems most often to bring the legislative process to a halt.”
Starting in January, Obama will either continue to have a majority of allies in the Senate or face a united block of opposition in the House and Senate. If there is a change in legislative leadership, his last two years in office will look vastly different than first six. Even with a slim majority in the Senate, Republicans would be more likely to check the president’s policies and executive orders and to blunt further progressive actions.
No one is expecting a fruitful lame-duck session after the elections, but the mood in Washington and the country could swing if Republicans are able to take a majority in the Senate and hold the House. Finally, the levers of Congress would rest with the same party. At that point, Obama will likely be staring down a long two years of Hillary headlines like “Hello Iowa, I’m back!”
Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.