Rocky Start to Vacation for Broken Republican Congress

House Republicans left Washington Friday with their tails between their legs after a humiliating, unproductive and disastrous legislative session. And they couldn’t escape without constant reminders of their brutal failures. Now, Republican members will have some explaining to do to voters in their districts about the impact of this broken Congress: no jobs agenda, no relief for the middle class while special interests get special treatment and no path forward in the fall.

On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor what all of us have been thinking.

WALLACE: OK. You talk about creating jobs. You talk about growing the economy. But you have spent the last week in the House working on and passing your agenda, a series of bills called Stop Government Abuse. Included in the bill, and let’s put it up on the screen, block the IRS from endorsing ObamaCare, place limits on taxpayer-funded conferences, require Congress to approve new regulations that cost more than $100 million…Is what you’ve been doing the best way to spend Congress’s time when you are about to go on a recess for five full weeks? Fox News Sunday, 8/4/13

The stage has been set for House Republicans’ rocky vacation. Check out what their constituents are reading and watching:

The Associated Press:

“The accomplishments are few, the chaos plentiful in the 113th Congress, a discourteous model of divided government now beginning a five-week break. […]

“Across the Capitol, unsteady bookends tell the story of the House’s first seven months in this two-year term. Internal dissent among Republicans nearly toppled Speaker John Boehner when lawmakers first convened in January. And leadership’s grip is no surer now: A routine spending bill was pulled from the floor this week, two days before the monthlong August break, for fear it would fall in a crossfire between opposing GOP factions.

“A few weeks earlier, Boehner suggested a new standard for Congress. “We should not be judged on how many new laws we create. We ought to be judged on how many laws that we repeal,” he said as Republicans voted for the 38th and 39th time since 2011 to repeal or otherwise neuter the health care law known as Obamacare.

“Reaching for a round number, they did it for a 40th time on Friday, although the legislation stands no chance in the Democratic Senate and the GOP has yet to offer the replacement that it pledged three years ago to produce. […]

“Further complicating matters, some tea party-backed Republicans say they will vote for such legislation only if it cancels all funding for the health care law that Congress passed three years ago – a condition Democrats and Obama vehemently reject.

“The alternative to compromise is a partial government shutdown, an outcome leaders in both parties say they can avoid.

“But that’s a struggle for after vacation.”  (The Associated Press, 8/3/13)

Maybe that’s why a new Quinnipiac University Poll from the day Republicans left shows them trailing Democrats in the generic ballot for Congress by 4 points: 40 percent to 36 percent. Only 19 percent of Americans approve of the job Republicans in Congress are doing, with an overwhelming 73 percent disapproving.

Budget Strategy Lands with a THUD

As a final insult, as House Republicans left town for vacation, their budget strategy appeared to be collapsing entirely, with the failure of the transportation funding bill. Only a few weeks before, the traditionally bipartisan farm bill fell apart. On top of that, Republicans indefinitely postponed another appropriations bill in committee – because they refuse to compromise with Democrats for the good of the American people.

• “THUD bill is pulled as GOP budget frays” Politico, 7/31/13

• “Needing Votes, House GOP Pulls 3 Suspension Bills” Roll Call, 7/31/13

• “This is what it looks like when the Republican budget strategy falls apart” Washington Post, 8/1/13

• “Republican fiscal splits erupt; Rogers rips party leadership on spending cuts” The Hill, 7/31/13]

• “Landing with a THUD” NBC News, 8/1/13

Looking Ahead: Dangerous Jobs Threats

The question for House Republicans is whether they will learn their lesson in time for September. Already, they are threatening more partisanship and obstruction this fall with demands to shut down the government and default on our debt if they don’t get their way on health care repeal– all because they want to give insurance companies free rein to raise rates as high as they want, give big bonuses to their executives and take away consumer protections like making sure people with pre-existing conditions can get care.

Former NRCC Chairman Tom Cole called a government shutdown “a suicidal political tactic” because he knows voters won’t stand for it.

The American Enterprise Institute’s Norm Ornstein says that, “‘Irresponsible’ is a term that doesn’t go nearly far enough…You could say it’s a do-nothing Congress but that doesn’t do justice to it. These guys are doing something, which is to destroy the economic fabric of the country by holding the functions of government hostage to a non-negotiable demand to eliminate Obamacare.” Ornstein continued, “what is going on now to sabotage Obamacare is not treasonous – just sharply beneath any reasonable standards of elected officials with the fiduciary responsibility of governing.”

The bottom line:

House Republicans promise to come back to Washington after their vacation with more of the same wrong priorities. If they’re smart, they’ll listen to their constituents this August and reverse course, return to Washington ready to work with Democrats, cooperate on solutions and fight for the middle class – in other words, to do the job they were sent to do.