Mariel Saez 202-225-3130
From: House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer
Re: Republicans Fail to Govern in the 115th Congress
Date: July 31, 2017
As the House begins the August District Work Period, House Republicans are back in their districts after seven months in session with effectively no legislative accomplishments to show for it. While the White House remains mired in controversy and characterized by chaos, conflict, and incompetence, Republicans in Congress continue to be deeply divided and unable to meet the most basic responsibilities of governing. As the Washington Post pointed out, they are losing control of their party:
“Six months after seizing complete control of the federal government, the Republican Party stands divided as ever — plunged into a messy war among its factions that has escalated in recent weeks to crisis levels. Frustrated lawmakers are increasingly sounding off at a White House awash in turmoil and struggling to accomplish its legislative goals. President Trump is scolding Republican senators over health care and even threatening electoral retribution. Congressional leaders are losing the confidence of their rank and file.… With his priorities stalled and Trump consumed by staff changes and investigations into Russian interference in last year’s election, Republicans are adding fuel to a political fire that is showing no signs of burning out.”
Ignoring Jobs & the Economy
While Democrats have put forward “A Better Deal” for the American people, Republicans have failed to send the President a single jobs or infrastructure bill. President Trump said that he would be “the greatest president for jobs that God ever created,” but he hasn’t taken action to support job creation. Moreover, the budget he has proposed would slash investments in infrastructure, education, research, and other areas that support job creation. Forecasters have lowered growth estimates; companies like Ford and Carrier are shipping jobs overseas; and June’s monthly employment report marked the first four consecutive months since 2012 with the economy adding fewer than 200,000 new private sector jobs.
Failing to Pass a Budget
Speaker Ryan has said that Congress has a “moral — and legal — obligation to propose and pass budgets.” However, Republicans’ have blown past the statutory April 15th deadline to pass a budget. As of today, they are 107 days late in doing so, and their deep divisions continue to prevent them from bringing a budget to the Floor. Without a budget, appropriators do not have topline funding levels to guide them in writing appropriations bills, leaving them in the dark about how to proceed with funding the government for Fiscal Year 2018.
Republicans know that our nation needs a bipartisan budget agreement on what the topline funding numbers should be, and that it should lift sequester caps so Congress can responsibly fund the government. Yet, instead of working toward that end, Republicans passed a “minibus” appropriations bill last week, combining four security-related appropriations bills without having established what our budget priorities are and what the consequences would be for the eight remaining bills to fund domestic priorities. Their lack of a plan is harmful to our nation’s defense: the minibus included $72 billion in defense funding beyond sequester level spending caps, which will trigger a 13% across the board cut to all defense accounts in a few short months.
No Meaningful Action to Improve Health Care
For seven years, Republicans have promised the American people that they would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and President Trump told the public that his legislation would provide “insurance for everybody” that is “much less expensive and much better.” Six months after he took office, the American people still haven’t seen a bill that meets that standard. In fact, every version of TrumpCare that House and Senate Republicans have proposed would kick tens of millions of Americans off their coverage and increase premiums and out-of-pocket costs for millions more. Their proposals would also allow discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions, gut Medicaid, and impose an age tax on older Americans. The Senate has rejected numerous iterations of TrumpCare, and it’s clear that Republicans have run out of options for repealing the law. Instead, they should work with Democrats to make improvements to the Affordable Care Act.
Still No Closer to Tax Reform
Republicans continually cite tax reform as one of their top priorities, but we still have not seen a detailed policy proposal from them, let alone the text of a bill outlining changes they would make to reform our tax code. In fact, each time Republican leaders release a set of vague principles, it contains less detail than the one that came before. If the past six months have been any indication, Republicans are clearly not serious about achieving successful, sustainable tax reform. In order to be successful, any real tax reform must be permanent, a goal that can only be achieved through a bipartisan process, not through partisan budget reconciliation. Republicans should reject reconciliation and commit to an open process, hold hearings, mark up legislation in committee, and allow amendments to be offered and considered on the Floor.
No Plan to Pay Our Nation’s Bills
Last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned Congress that delaying action to address the debt limit will cost taxpayers and create uncertainty for the economy. He told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee last Wednesday: “Right now effectively, as opposed to borrowing in the market at lower rates, we're borrowing and making our trust funds whole at slightly higher rates, so there is a real cost to doing that… There's also an implied cost of uncertainty into the market. And the longer we wait, the more that uncertainty will be.”
Unfortunately, House Republicans are failing to heed Secretary Mnuchin’s warning and still don’t have a plan to ensure our nation pays its bills. Democrats stand ready to support a clean bill that will ensure our nation fulfills its obligations and preserves its creditworthiness. We should pass a clean debt limit bill as soon as Congress returns from the August District Work Period so that we can provide certainty to businesses, investors, and the markets.
No Strategy on Critical National Security Challenges
While President Trump and Congressional Republicans argue that they are strengthening national security, their record over the last seven months indicates otherwise. Trump’s budget cuts the State Department and USAID by 29%, undermining the critical role these agencies play in keeping the U.S. safe. His dangerous Muslim ban, which has been rejected by federal courts, makes Americans less safe by providing a potent recruiting tool for terror groups like ISIS. In addition, Trump has not announced a plan to defeat ISIS, and he has no strategy to address situations in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, or North Korea. He also continues to cozy up to Putin’s regime in spite of the regime’s dangerous actions.
Rolling Back Protections for the American People
Rather than address these priority issues, House Republicans have wasted the last seven months rolling back protections for the American people. Having been unable to bring jobs legislation, a budget, or legislation that could be enacted on health care to the Floor, they are instead filling the Floor schedule with bills to:
- Undermine worker safety;
- Take away Americans’ right to privacy;
- Harm the environment;
- Threaten public health;
- Undermine consumer safety;
- Weaken retirement security;
- Roll back civil rights protections;
- Take health care away from tens of millions of people;
- Short-change students and teachers through education cuts; and
- Make Americans less safe.
Breaking Promises of Openness and Transparency
When Speaker Ryan took the gavel in October 2015, he told Members of the House: “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.”
Yet, the 115th Congress is on track to be the most closed Congress, with forty-one closed Rules – 67% of the Rule bills considered this Congress. The record number of closed Rules in a single session is forty-eight, during the first session of the previous Congress. At the same point in that Congress, Republicans had passed thirty-one closed Rules. These closed Rules – which limit debate and prevent Members from influencing legislation on behalf of their constituents – directly contradict the Speaker’s promise.
In their Pledge to America, Republicans also vowed that they would “advance major legislation one issue at a time,” but again and again they have packaged partisan poison pills with important, must-pass legislation. The latest example is $1.6 billion in funding for President Trump’s ineffective and wasteful border wall, which they added to the “minibus” appropriations bill using a legislative gimmick. In effect, they avoided any debate and an up-or-down vote on the issue, so that they could protect their Members from taking a tough vote on taxpayer dollars being used to build a wall the President promised would not be funded by Americans.
Whether it’s funding the government or passing health care legislation, the American people deserve an open, transparent process that allows the full participation of Members and thoughtful consideration of legislation. Rather than jam through partisan legislation, Members should work together toward compromise, reach consensus, and get things done for the American people in a bipartisan way.
Looking Ahead to September
When Members return from the August District Work Period, Congress will face a long to-do list of must-pass legislation. Congress will have to address the nation’s fiscal challenges, including reaching a bipartisan agreement on topline levels to fund the government and paying our nation’s bills. In addition to must-pass legislation, Members on both sides of the aisle ought to work together to make improvements to the Affordable Care Act to stabilize health care markets and bring costs down for consumers. And Congress should consider bipartisan jobs legislation that helps people get ahead and make it in America. Democrats are ready to work with Republicans to deliver results. After months of chaos, conflict, and incompetence, we hope they’ll abandon the partisan path they’ve followed and instead embrace bipartisanship toward the goal of real compromise.