Tuesday, January 2, 2024

New York Times Laments House Republicans Didn’t Ram Through Enough Big-Government Legislation

Year-end recaps provide Beltway pundits with plenty of opportunity to throw a leftist gloss on events of the past 12 months. Sure enough, a New York Times article that Politico called a “damning report card for House Republicans” only looks bad from the left’s perspective:

In 2023, the Republican-led House has passed only 26 bills that became law, despite holding a total of 724 votes. That is more voting and less lawmaking than at any other time in the last decade, according to an analysis by the Bipartisan Policy Center, and a far less productive record than that of last year, when Democrats had unified control of Congress.

Given those numbers, some conservatives, including this one, might initially give a one-word response: So? But the article shows how Washington elites hunger to promote the big-government agenda — that’s what makes Congress “productive,” according to the Times’ Annie Karni — and go about enacting it by any means possible.

Less Lawmaking Means Less Spending

For starters, it stands to reason that Congress would pass fewer pieces of legislation this year, given 1) divided control of Congress and the presidency and 2) the close vote margins, particularly in the House. Karni concedes that “the raw number of laws is not always the best way to capture the productivity of a Congress,” but her underlying premise remains that Congress should tackle major issues with major legislation.

But to some conservatives, this “unproductive” Congress represents a feature, not a bug. To wit:

  • Congress did not do what it has done in many years past, avoiding a massive omnibus spending bill totaling thousands of pages and trillions of dollars, which members do not have a chance to read — and even the staff writing the legislation do not read and cannot understand.
  • Congress did not pass trillions of dollars in new Covid “stimulus” spending, which among other things paid people more to remain on unemployment than to go back to work.
  • Congress did not enact other elements of President Biden’s Build Back Bankrupt agenda, from more green pork to trillions of dollars in new entitlement spending.

Why Does NYT Oppose Lawmakers Voting?

But the other element of the Times’ complaint — that the House of Representatives spent too much time voting this year — shows leftists’ anti-democratic nature. In most cases, voting represents the epitome of the legislative process — lawmakers debating amendments in open session, and then taking a position for the country and their constituents to see.

Granted, some votes in the House have taken on a performative nature. For instance, the Times piece discusses numerous censure resolutions offered by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Because the Constitution prescribes a two-thirds vote for either chamber of Congress to expel one of their own — a threshold that remains difficult to reach, recent expulsion of former Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., notwithstanding — censure resolutions seem more focused on sending a political message.

But when it comes to substantive legislation, the Times and other professed lovers of democracy should not object to members of Congress utilizing many recorded votes to conduct the people’s business. Even the prolonged ballots of voting over the speakership focused (primarily) on substantive concerns with the direction of the legislative agenda, rather than fits of personal pique.

In one sense, Karni’s analysis fits very much in line with the leftist view of the country needing “less democracy.” A focus on voting, and that more voting somehow makes Congress less “productive,” implies that most members of Congress shouldn’t even try to alter legislation in a public way.

Of course, this elitist mindset begets backroom shenanigans, wherein a select clique of members and aides makes all the substantive choices for their 500-plus colleagues, to say nothing of the nation as a whole. Karni may prefer the days when Nancy “We Have to Pass the Bill So That You Can Find Out What Is in It” Pelosi ruled with an iron fist, and members of Congress served as lemmings blindly toeing the leadership line. But to call said process conducive to the transparency reporters purportedly hold dear defies any sense of logic.

In that sense, the Times piece not only gave conservatives succor this holiday season by reminding them of the ways House Republicans served as a break on the left’s agenda. It also exposed how the left has few quibbles about the way they enact that agenda into law.

This post was originally published at The Federalist.