HOUSE APPROVES ONE OF THE SILLIEST BILLS OF THE YEAR…. With a week to go before funding for the federal government runs out, the House of Representatives spent the day working on a measure related to “preventing” a shutdown — but not really.

Lawmakers spent the afternoon debating H.R. 1255, also known as the “Government Shutdown Prevention Act.” House Republicans came up with this ridiculous plan a few days ago — if policymakers fail to reach a budget deal by April 8, the House-passed spending cuts would magically become law, because Republicans say so, and would keep the government open in the process.

The Senate already considered and rejected the House bill, but GOP leaders decided that doesn’t really matter. As House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) put it, the House Republican plan would become “the law of the land” — even without Senate approval or the president’s signature — if the government shuts down, and if the House approves the “Government Shutdown Prevention Act.”

Thursday, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) took to the floor to say he was originally “outraged” by this scheme, “but then I realized, what’s tomorrow? April Fools’ Day. Hey guys, you got me! Congratulations. Happy April Fools’ Day. What are we really going to be doing tomorrow?”

Alas, the House actually debated this. Worse, Republicans actually approved it, too — the vote was 221 to 202 — but not before merciless mocking from Democrats.

“What you see on the floor today is no example of Democracy in action,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. “It’s silly. The Republican leadership is asking its members to make a silly vote.”

“April Fools, America,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said. “This is a joke, America. This is not real, America.”

Other Democrats openly mocked Republicans and said they fail to understand the basic constitutional requirement that bills must pass the House and Senate before they become law. Two members suggested children’s books as a way for Republicans to begin to learn about the Constitution — Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) offered How our Laws are Made, and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) offered House Mouse, Senate Mouse.

“It’s a much thinner book and it rhymes,” Weiner said.

Several others encouraged Republicans to watch “I’m Just a Bill,” the classic 1970s cartoon explaining how a bill becomes law.

For what it’s worth, several House GOP members said they realized they couldn’t pass a law by themselves, but wanted to approve this “symbolic” bill to “send a message” to the Senate about preventing a shutdown.

First, that’s exceedingly dumb, since I’m pretty sure the Senate is well aware of the deadline. Second, this is still a foolish waste of time, since lawmakers could have spent the day doing real work. And third, if Republicans realize how a bill becomes a law, why did Cantor say the House could do this entirely on its own just a few days ago?

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.