A ‘Do-Nothing’ Congress — by design (redux)

A ‘DO-NOTHING’ CONGRESS — BY DESIGN….About a month ago, the Boston Globe reported that Republican leaders in Congress were considering a legislative agenda in which they would literally give up on passing major policy initiatives and instead focus on divisive bills that they didn’t expect to pass.

According to (subscription-only) Roll Call, the Senate GOP is officially on board with the plan.

With only a few months left on the legislative calendar, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has decided to abandon any efforts at bipartisanship in favor of using his chamber to hold a series of highly partisan, mostly symbolic votes on conservative causes, including amendments banning gay marriage and flag burning, and fully repealing the estate tax.

Although Frist has peppered the Senate schedule with a handful of substantive issues — including likely votes this week on a new U.S. trade representative, a Native Hawaiian-rights bill and a new mine-safety czar — the chamber will put off work on major legislation such as the fiscal 2007 Defense authorization bill in order for Frist to pursue items of special interest to his party’s conservative base.

It’s been painfully obvious for a while now, but it’s almost comical how unserious congressional Republicans are about matters of state. They’re not only failing to govern, they’re shirking their duties intentionally as part of an electoral strategy.

House Majority Leader John Boehner recently said Republicans don’t need policy achievements to keep their majority in Congress; they just need to do “the simple blocking and tackling that any team goes through if they’re going to win.” The reality is, however, the only thing GOP lawmakers are blocking right now is substantive legislation that might pass.

During a recent debate on a medical malpractice bill that both sides knew was going to lose anyway, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) told CQ, “We haven’t done anything worth a toot in three months.” Expect about four more months of the exact same thing.

For the “party of ideas,” it’s a sad spectacle, isn’t it?