The 115th Congress now celebrates its 100th day. Excited about have a GOP majority in both chambers, Republicans promised a goal to “go big, go bold” and deliver for people in the United States. In their 50 days during four months, they have failed.
The most visible activities in the House during the first 100 days have been the failure of the health care “reform” and the scandal of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) who was forced from leading the investigation into Russian involvement with the campaign of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). After concealing information and secretly meeting with White House staffers, Nunes himself is under investigation. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) blamed their failures on a lack of experience in being the majority party, but the House has had a majority since 2010.
The failure—thus far—of the healthcare “repeal and replace” caused the greatest infighting in the current congressional year. Although the bill would have taken insurance from 24 million people, it didn’t remove enough benefits for the ultra-right wingers in the House. About the conservative Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) said:
“Americans are sick and tired of the dysfunction in Washington when far right-wing factions put their narrow interests above the will of the people that elected them.”
Another House member called the leader of the Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), “a pathological liar who isn’t interested in getting to yes.” A Meadows’ ally, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) blamed Ryan, saying that the GOP needs “either a change in direction from this Speaker, or we need a new Speaker.” Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) said, “I don’t know that the Lord himself could unite our caucus.” Ryan thinks that tax reform would be easier than health care change, but Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said, “I don’t see it that way.” Other GOP representatives resist Ryan’s “border-adjustment plan,” otherwise known as large tariffs. Meanwhile Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), restless about congressional inaction and quits on health care change, has switched back to health care from tax reform as his priority.
What has Congress accomplished in 100 days? It erased 11 of President Obama’s previous orders by using the archaic Congressional Review Act that had been used only once in its 20-year history. George W. Bush used the law in 2001 to kill an ergonomics rule at the Department of Labor. This Congress used the act to cause the loss of internet privacy, healthcare for women, science in climate decisions, education guidelines, clean water regulations, keeping mentally ill people from buying guns, and more. And that’s it during their 50 days.
The Senate has been a bit busier, although not with legislation. The Republicans confirmed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and secretaries to the Cabinet, people opposed to their agencies’ missions. Yet GOP Senators couldn’t even accomplish this without changing the rules for the confirmations and bringing in the vice president to break a tie vote.
After failing to provide the Senate with nominees, DDT has gone back to lambasting Democrats for not moving fast enough to confirm his nominees. This week he changed his February position that “we don’t want to fill those jobs” to “waiting right now for so many people” to get confirmed by the Senate. DDT used his “alternative facts” when he claimed he has “hundreds of people that we’re trying to get through. “Accurate facts” shown that 478 out of 553 key positions have no nominee and another 29 have been announced but not formally nominated. Thus far, 22 positions have been confirmed. Even GOP senators are impatient with DDT’s slow pace.
The State Department is a prime example of DDT’s lack of action. Almost three months after “cleaning house” in the State Department, it is largely empty. At a time when DDT is creating disasters around the world, he has nominated only five ambassadors to replace the 57 who he fired and ordered home on the day he was inaugurated. Only the U.S. Ambassador to Israel has been confirmed, and the Senate has recently received four nominees for diplomats in Japan, China, Senegal, and the Republic of Congo. Still missing are officials in charge of arms control, management, administration, consular affairs, and foreign missions with no replacements. The only senior position is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has no diplomatic experience. The deputy nominee was announced today. A very depressing chart can be found here.
Congress faces a big problem when it returns from a two-week recess in the last week of April: the federal government shuts down on DDT’s 100th day in office if the House and the Senate cannot agree on a budget in three days. According to White House staffers, DDT doesn’t care whether the government shuts down, but the people waiting for $8 billion in income tax refunds may be upset when a government shutdown stops that process.
Meanwhile, Republicans are planning how to push through their agenda with the threat of closing down the government. OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, who thinks that “the consequences [of a shutdown] have been blown out of proportion,” has faith that he can blackmail Democrats into paying for DDT’s wall by threatening to stop funding for what he calls “sanctuary cities.” Unfortunately for Mulvaney, the Supreme Court has already ruled that this tactic is unconstitutional in one of its rulings on the Affordable Care Act. Twenty years ago, ultra-conservative SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia ruled that federal government may not “impress into its service— … at no cost to itself — the police officers of the 50 states.” Municipalities are already suing DDT for his January 25 executive order from January 25 that claims to empower the attorney general and secretary of Homeland Security to cut off and claw back federal funds that go to these cities.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) wants to use the budget bill to force non-payment to Planned Parenthood for its service to needy people, stopping checks for cancer, STDs, and HIV/AIDS while promoting family planning through providing contraception. In order to succeed, Ryan will have to get almost total consensus from House Republicans to boost military spending, reduce almost all humanitarian efforts domestic and abroad, and not reduce the deficit.
Because DDT threatens to destroy the Affordable Care Act by canceling insurer subsidies for low-income enrollees, Democrats in Congress plan to demand that key payments be included in the upcoming budget. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) is a GOP leader in the House who supports DDT in appropriating the money, but he’s having a rugged time at townhall meetings throughout the eastern part of the state, the first time he’s held these in four years. Protesters were extremely vocal in three different meetings, and he has not yet faced his constituents where the loss of the Affordable Care Act would close hospitals in small communities.
DDT thinks he can blame Democrats for a shutdown, but the GOP, that closed down the government in October 2013 for a month at a cost of $25 billion, took the brunt of the blame. Only 17 percent of voters are willing to have a shutdown, and 65 percent think it should be blocked by “all means necessary.”
While many members of Congress are dodging their constituents in town hall meetings because of protesters, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) “bravely” faced those fearsome creatures at a townhall this week. There he made the statement:
“You say you pay for me to do this? That’s bullcrap.”
Mullins canceled his next townhall meeting because he couldn’t get a ban on the red and green sheets of paper that people hold up at town halls to represent their positions. Taxpayers give Mullins a salary of $174,000 a year for meeting with Congress 145 days in 2017, up from 110 days in 2016. The rest of the time, members of Congress claim to be meeting with their constituents. Mullins added to his claim that he’s paid his “own salary” through his taxes and that “no one here pays me to go.” He stated that he’s providing a “service” to the people who pay him.
The approval rating of Congress dropped eight points since February to 20 percent. Republicans reduced their approval rating of their own Congress from 50 percent to 31 percent in that time. This story may demonstrate a reason for Congress’ falling approval rates. A question at Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) town hall: “When will you have the backbone to put our country over party?”
The willingness of Republican legislators to take away everything from the people in the United States except uncontrolled police and military forces demonstrates a growing cruelty in their ruling. Good leaders empower people while the GOP increasingly takes away rights through enforcing conservative Christian beliefs, suppressing voters, voter suppression, dehumanizing minorities, and eliminating all social services. Their entire focus is on giving all assets to the wealthy. Further polarizing the nation, the House leader completely rejected any negotiation with the Democrats.
A question at Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) town hall: “When will you have the backbone to put our country over party?”
We’ll hope that Congress can avert another shutdown of government services, but I wouldn’t plan a vacation in any national park during early May.