Issue Report ● Republican Outrages
For Immediate Release: 
January 2, 2018
Contact Info: 
Mariel Saez 202-225-3130
To:        Editors, Editorial Writers, Reporters
From:   House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer
Re:        A Look Back at 2017: Republicans Fail to Govern
Date:     January 2, 2017


As 2018 begins, we have an opportunity to reflect on the past year of unified Republican control of the government. With control of both the House and Senate as well as the White House, Republicans have full control over the legislative process.  This means they have no excuse for having failed to pass legislation addressing the national challenges for which they promised constructive solutions.  Instead, we saw Republican division, disunity, and extremism paralyze Congress and make the First Session of the 115th Congress chaotic, dysfunctional, unproductive, and closed. 

Republicans have stumbled from one disaster to the next.  These include several failed attempts to take health insurance away from millions of Americas; the jamming-through of a dangerous, partisan tax overhaul that benefits the wealthiest at the expense of everyone else; an absence of a plan to invest in job creation and infrastructure; and multiple assaults on civil rights, workers’ rights, and the safety of consumers and the environment.  Most egregiously, Republicans in Congress seem to have forgotten their earlier calls for fiscal responsibility by backing measures that heap more and more debt onto our children and grandchildren. 

In years to come, Americans may well look back on 2017 as the year in which Republican hypocrisy and incompetence was fully exposed to the bright scrutiny of a nation weary of partisan conflict and its resulting political stasis.  We can only hope that 2018 and the Second Session of the 115th Congress will bring a new outlook by Republicans and a decision to turn, at last, away from divisive politics and to the necessary work of governing responsibly.

Republicans Have Ignored Jobs & the Economy

On January 11, then-President-Elect Trump declared that he would be the “greatest job producer God has ever created.”  In his inaugural address, he promised to build “new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation” as a means to spur job creation.  With his party in control of the White House, the House, and the Senate – and with Democrats eager to work with Republicans on infrastructure investment – no plans have been put forward toward this end, nearly one year later.  After their first year of unencumbered control of the legislative process, not even a single major jobs proposal has even been introduced.  No substantial infrastructure investment proposal has been posited either. 

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress have exacerbated the uncertainty that has deterred many private businesses from investing in job creation here at home.  They’ve done so by ignoring their responsibility to budget and appropriate in a way that boosts confidence in our economy and promotes growth.   Instead, they’ve sown dangerous uncertainty by kicking the can down the road at key funding deadlines and pursuing a dangerous tax overhaul that nonpartisan experts say will not significantly grow the economy.

Americans want Congress to focus on taking bipartisan actions to move our country forward and grow our economy, but even more so they are asking Congress to address the problem of wage stagnation and an erosion of the opportunities that have traditionally been the bedrock of the American Dream.  All year, the Republican Majority has said no to bringing legislation to the House Floor that would raise the minimum wage.  Neither has it taken any action to expand access to higher education, more affordable child care, or a more secure retirement.  Republicans have also proposed changes to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms that would again permit predatory practices that put retirees’ investments in jeopardy and undermine consumer protections in the financial sector.

Republicans Brought our Government to the Brink of a Shutdown Four Times

Having had all year to meet the most fundamental responsibility of governing by passing a budget and moving appropriations bills through the House and Senate under regular order, Republicans failed spectacularly.  In doing so, they put our country and its economy at risk, sowing uncertainty and bringing us to the brink of a costly government shutdown four times in a year. 

In April, Republicans faced their first deadline when the Congress had to complete the appropriations process for Fiscal Year 2017 that had been postponed from the previous September through a long-term continuing resolution.  As the deadline approached, chaos within their conference and comments by President Trump encouraging a shutdown nearly caused the government to close just three months into their tenure as the party controlling all the levers of the legislative process. 

In September, faced with the prospect of either working with Democrats on a deal to raise the budget caps and fund the government in time for the start of the Fiscal Year 2018 fiscal year, Republicans chose instead to kick the can down the road with a three-month continuing resolution.  Claiming they needed twelve additional weeks to write an omnibus bill, Democrats agreed to provide more time to reach an agreement. However, instead of making progress on an omnibus, Republicans wasted time gearing up for their partisan tax bill and ignored pleas from the Pentagon that governing from one continuing resolution to the next creates dangerous uncertainty. 

In early December, at the eleventh hour, they pushed through another continuing resolution to move the deadline to fund the government until just days before Christmas.  Democrats strongly opposed a two-week continuing resolution and warned that Republicans were only passing this short-term bill to give them more time to pass their tax bill.  In fact, we were correct. The two extra weeks Republicans gave themselves were spent jamming their partisan, dangerous tax overhaul through Congress.  In the end, with another shutdown looming the week before Christmas, Republicans enacted yet another continuing resolution to kick the can down the road into January, exacerbating the uncertainty endured by the Department of Defense and by businesses and families across the country. 

Since they assumed the Majority in 2011, divided Republicans had been unable to enact a single long-term funding bill without help from Democrats.  In fact, the continuing resolution enacted on December 21, 2017, was the first funding measure of any kind Republicans were able to enact on their own after seven years in the majority.  However, Republicans continue to insist on trying to enact funding bills without compromise, fomenting uncertainty and playing games with costly government shutdowns.

Republicans Continue to Waste Time Trying to Take Health Coverage Away from Millions

From day one, the Republican-led Congress has been almost singularly focused on repealing the Affordable Care Act, kicking millions off their coverage, causing premiums to spike, and destabilizing the health insurance markets in our country.  Having failed to do so more than sixty times during the Obama presidency, they began the Trump era promising to end the Affordable Care Act while replacing it with a viable alternative.  This started with a budget resolution on January 12 containing reconciliation instructions that set up a partisan process to jam a repeal-and-replace bill through the House and Senate against Democratic opposition.

In March, House Republicans introduced their legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act amid significant public opposition to their efforts.  However, in a spectacular (and much welcomed) failure, they were unable to enact it, trying first in March – before having to pull their first TrumpCare bill from the House Floor before certain defeat – and then again in July, when Democratic and Republican Senators voted together to reject the dangerous TrumpCare legislation.   

In November, while moving ahead with their disastrous tax overhaul, Senate Republicans added a repeal of the individual mandate into their bill.  The version of the tax bill that House and Senate Republicans brought to the Floor in both chambers in late December included this provision to kick 13 million Americans off their health care coverage and destabilize the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplaces. 

Republicans have also refused to take critical steps to strengthen our health care system and maintain access to coverage for those who have it.  Even after Senators Murray and Alexander reached a bipartisan compromise to shore up health insurance markets, Republicans refused to bring it up for a vote in either the House or Senate.  Meanwhile, 9 million children who are covered under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and their families have had to live with uncertainty as Republicans ignored the need to reauthorize the program all year.  The short-term extension that Republicans included in the year-end continuing resolution merely kicks the can down the road into January, even when the framework for a long-term reauthorization has been reached by Democratic and Republican negotiators. 

Republicans Leave the Middle Class Behind With Their Tax Scam

After years of railing against deficits whenever Congress considered measures that invested in our nation’s economic strength or national security, Republicans jammed through a partisan tax overhaul bill in December that raised deficits $1.5 trillion in order to give tax breaks to the very wealthy.  Desperate at the end of an unproductive year for anything resembling a legislative victory, House and Senate Republicans went outside of regular order and ignored Americans’ desire for bipartisan tax reform.  Instead, they pushed through a tax bill that  only a third of Americans support, which raises taxes on 86 million middle-class households and gives 83% of its benefits to those making over $900,000.  It included the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which will force 13 million Americans off their health insurance coverage.  Its impact on deficits and the debt cannot be overstated, posing a danger not only to our investments in the years ahead but also triggering an automatic PAYGO cut of $25 billion from Medicare and billions more from other critical domestic programs this year alone.

Republicans Abandon Their Promises of Fiscal Responsibility

If history remembers the First Session of the 115th Congress for one thing, it may be the sudden and shocking abandonment by Republicans of their longstanding insistence on fiscal discipline.  Throughout the year, Republicans have ignored deficits by pretending that massive tax cuts for the wealthy somehow pay for themselves.  This trickle-down theory, called “voodoo economics” by former President George H. W. Bush, has been debunked time and time again.  It formed the basis for Republicans’ dangerous tax overhaul legislation in December, which will add $1.5 trillion to deficits without paying for it

Republicans Have Enabled Administration Policies that Place Our National Security in Jeopardy

Congressional Republicans have largely been silent in the face of policies by the Trump Administration that undermine our national security.  They have sat idly by while President Trump recklessly and irresponsibly alienates key allies, cozies up to autocratic leaders abroad, emboldens our adversaries, and hollows out the State Department.  They’ve also refused to act against dangerous and unconstitutional Muslim bans that provide a potent recruiting and radicalization tool to ISIS and other groups.  The President talks about making America safer, but his bluster and provocations with regard to North Korea risk drawing the United States and its allies into a nuclear war.  He has wavered on our nation’s collective defense commitment through NATO, and he seems unable to offer anything but praise and defense of Russian President Vladimir Putin even after clear evidence presented by our intelligence agencies of Russia’s interference in our election.

Republicans Continue to Undermine the Investigation of Russian Electoral Interference & U.S. Foreign Policy

Even with the special prosecutor’s investigation continuing, Congress has an important role to play looking into Russia’s efforts to subvert our democracy and interfere in our elections.  While the Justice Department has an obligation to explore whether anyone committed criminal activities, Congressional committees have a responsibility to look at the larger picture and make recommendations on how to protect against foreign interference.  That is why it is disconcerting that House Republicans appear to be wrapping up the House Intelligence Committee’s inquiry into Russian election subversion long before its work is complete. 

All year, House and Senate Republicans have been defending President Trump and, dangerously, undermining all of the investigations taking place.  Efforts have been made to paint the special prosecutor’s investigation as tainted by partisanship, and Intelligence Committee Republican staff met with witnesses outside Washington in order to prevent Democratic lawmakers from participating.  Our intelligence agencies made it clear since late last year that there was strong evidence of Russian attempts to influence the outcome of our election – yet the Republican Congress has not been taking this issue nearly as seriously as it ought to. 

Republicans Fail to Address Our Immigration Challenges

For years, there has been bipartisan consensus that Congress should tackle comprehensive immigration reform, but Republican leaders refuse to work across the aisle toward that end.  Instead, President Trump and many Republicans in Congress continue to push an anti-immigrant agenda that is inconsistent with the values of our nation.

In addition, Republicans have failed to address the immediate crisis sparked by President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  When the President issued his order to end DACA in September, it started a six-month countdown clock to the deportation of more than 800,000 young people who were brought here as children through no fault of their own.  These young people were, on average, only six years old at the time of their arrival, and have been here in this country an average of twenty years.  They are Americans in mind and in spirit, with patriotism for our nation and for the principles for which it stands.  If Congress fails to pass the DREAM Act to allow these DREAMers to remain with their families and in our country, it would not only be a horrific abandonment of our values but also a huge blow to our economy – costing as much as $400 billion.  Hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost, and the impact on communities and their local economies would be devastating.  It’s no wonder that there is such strong, bipartisan support for DREAMers to be allowed to remain here – even among Republican voters.  A permanent solution to allow DREAMers to remain here must be enacted as soon as possible to provide DREAMers with certainty that they can continue contributing to our nation. Democrats have continued urging Republican leaders to let the House work its will on this issue.  If they allow the DREAM Act to come to the Floor, it would pass overwhelmingly. 

Furthermore, President Trump issued orders in November to end the Temporary Protective Status for Haitians and Nicaraguans who found refuge on our shores following devastating natural disasters in their home countries.  However, conditions in Haiti and Nicaragua have not improved sufficiently for these refugees to return.  Sending them back now would put thousands of lives in danger and risk destabilizing these countries’ fragile recovery.  Congress must address this new crisis of the Administration’s own making. 

Republicans, as the party in full control of government, will surely be held responsible for the negative effects of these reckless immigration policy changes and Congress’s failure to address them in a timely manner. 

Republicans Roll Back LGBT Protections

Despite promising the LGBT community that he would fight for them, President Trump and his colleagues in Congress rolled back their protections and rights. In July, House Republicans offered an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill that would deny important medical treatment to transgender service-members in the military.  After twenty-four Republicans joined 190 Democrats to defeat this amendment, President Trump tweeted in response that he would use his executive authority to ban transgender Americans from serving outright.  He did so against the advice of the Pentagon, which stands to lose mission-critical personnel from such a ban, endangering our national security.  Now, valuable taxpayer resources are being wasted on a lawsuit to implement a transgender ban that the military opposes and that runs contrary to the values and interests of our country.

Throughout the year, House Republicans have also missed countless opportunities to promote equality by bringing to the Floor legislation that would ban discrimination against LGBT Americans and their families in the workplace and in education.  Democrats reintroduced the Equality Act in the 115th Congress in May, yet Republicans have not allowed it to come to the Floor for consideration.  Moreover, they have stood idly by in the face of – or even vocally supported – Trump Administration efforts to subvert the equality and civil rights of LGBT people.  This includes the rescinding of Department of Education guidance in February that had protected transgender students from discrimination in schools and the issuance of guidance by the Justice Department in October allowing employers broad discretion to deny services to LGBT Americans because of religious objections.  In addition, the Trump Administration ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in December to stop using the word “transgender” in budget documents – effectively erasing transgender Americans from discourse over public health funding priorities.

Republicans Abandon 3.6 Million U.S. Citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

After the devastation of their islands by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Congressional Republicans have largely ignored the plight of the 3.6 million people living in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, who are our fellow American citizens.  While Congress has enacted supplemental appropriations bills, Republicans have done nothing to prevent nearly a million people from losing access to Medicaid in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Neither have they condemned President Trump’s insensitive statement that the hurricanes were not a “real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina, which hit the U.S. mainland, and his insistence that its death toll was far smaller than it actually was. It is unacceptable that thousands of our fellow Americans are still without power and living in the dark. We must do more to ensure that they have all of the resources necessary to recover and rebuild stronger.

Republicans Assault Protections for Workers’ Rights, Consumer Safety, & Public Health

Desperate to fill time on the Floor while unable to take responsible action to address our most pressing challenges, House Republicans have advanced one partisan bill after another to erode the hard-won rights of workers, to undermine consumer safety, and to harm public health and our environment.  They have also stymied Democrats’ efforts to pass legislation that would help workers and their families and safeguard civil rights for all Americans. 

First, in March, House Republicans brought to the Floor a bill that would strip away the collective bargaining rights of hardworking federal employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Doing so would undermine our ability to recruit and retain the most talented workers to care for those who served our nation in uniform.  Then, in May, Republicans attempted to end overtime pay as Americans know it.  Their legislation would have allowed employers to replace overtime pay with compensatory time off – but at the discretion of the employer. They have also passed bills that undermine worker protections by making it easier for the private sector to hide labor violations and striking rules that require worker injury reporting.

Moreover, Democrats introduced legislation this year to guarantee paid family leave for all federal employees and to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour for all workers in our country – but Republicans blocked both bills from coming to the Floor. 

House Republicans have also rolled back consumer protections throughout the year, including passing the “Wrong Choice” Act, which would repeal consumer protections in the financial sector that were implemented after the 2008 financial crisis.  This built on Republican efforts in recent years to undermine the Dodd-Frank reforms that are preventing Wall Street from gambling with Americans’ investments, including retirement funds. They have also passed a number of bills that remove financial protections, such as weakening the Securities and Exchange Commission, allowing riskier trading, and undermining retirement security.

When it comes to environmental protections, Republicans in Congress have applauded moves by the Trump Administration to empower polluters and deny climate change.  From the President’s selection of someone who has fought against environmental protections to lead the Environmental Protection Agency to his withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, from the weakening of Obama-era fuel economy standards to the rescinding of the Clean Power Plan, we’ve witnessed this year an all-out assault on the health of our planet and our people.  Furthermore, President Trump removed federal protections for 2 million acres of land in Utah and opened them for exploitation.  Congressional Republicans have also passed a number of bills that undermine the environment, such as rolling back clean air and water protections, moving public lands into private hands, and preventing the Environmental Protection Agency from take actions using the best available science.  In December, Congressional Republicans added to this dismal record of environmental irresponsibility by sneaking into their tax overhaul legislation a provision to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Republicans Fail to Protect Voting Rights

On voting rights, the Republican record this year has been dismal.  Throughout 2017, Congressional Republicans have turned a blind eye to Trump Administration efforts to unravel voting rights protections and to efforts by some states and municipalities to impose new barriers to ballot access.  After President Trump continued to deny his loss of the national popular vote in 2016 by more than 3 million ballots, House Republicans defended and enabled his creation of a partisan commission to suppress the right to vote and launched an all-out assault on the Election Assistance Commission.  After Democrats reintroduced the Voter Empowerment Act and the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendments Act in the House and Senate, Republicans refused to consider them. 

Republicans Ignore the Danger of Gun Violence

Even after the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history, in which fifty-eight people were killed and more than 500 wounded in Las Vegas, Republicans in Congress refused to take action to prevent further gun violence.  Less than sixty hours after that shooting, House Republicans voted to defeat a motion that would allow consideration of a bill to launch a Select Committee on Gun Violence.  Two months later, and after yet another horrific mass shooting at a church in Southerland Springs, Texas, they brought to the Floor and passed an N.R.A.-supported bill to allow the concealed carrying of dangerous firearms across state lines. 

Republicans are Breaking Records for Closed Processes and Lack of Transparency in Congress

In 2017, the House Republican Majority set new records for opaqueness and unaccountability in the First Session of the 115th Congress.  Republicans used 58 closed rules to consider legislation on the Floor, preventing Members from proposing Floor amendments to improve bills.  Using closed and structured rules, Republicans blocked 1,533 amendments from both Democratic and Republican Members from being considered on the House Floor this year. 

This comes in sharp contrast to the promise by Speaker Ryan for a more open process.  When he assumed the speakership in 2015, he told Members that:  “We will not duck the tough issues. We will take them head on…we should not hide our disagreements. We should embrace them. We have nothing to fear from honest disagreements honestly stated.  If you have ideas, let’s hear them.  I believe a greater clarity between us can lead to a greater charity among us.”

Meanwhile, President Trump and Republicans love to claim that the 115th Congress has been the most productive in modern history at enacting legislation.  In fact, only 97 bills have been signed into law, compared to 125 bills enacted in the First Session of the Democratic-led 111th Congress. Of those, only ten would be considered significant pieces of legislation:
  • H.R.3823                   Disaster Tax Relief and Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2017
  • H.R.3732                   Emergency Aid to American Survivors of Hurricanes Irma and Jose Overseas Act
  • H.R.3364                   Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act
  • H.R.2810                   National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018
  • H.R.2430                   FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017
  • H.R.2266                   Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017
  • H.R.601                     Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018 and Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017
  • H.R.244                     Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017
  • S.114                          VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017
  • H.R.1                         Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, 2017
That’s fewer than one significant bill enacted each month. 

Looking Ahead

Given Republicans’ dismal record as the governing party in 2017, Americans can only hope that 2018 will be better.  With several critical and pressing issues facing Congress in the first few months of this year – including another shutdown threat and a looming default crisis – Republicans need to get their act together. We urge them to abandon the partisan course they have pursued and instead work with Democrats to get our work done.

House Democrats will continue to draw attention to their hypocrisy and dysfunction while presenting a more responsible alternative to Republicans’ deeply flawed and dangerous agenda.