Way to go, guys. A funny thing happened on the way to libertarian utopia. Indeed, it turns out that the GOP-controlled Congress can’t seem to pass any meaningful laws at all.
Either they have forgotten how, or the divisions in their own increasingly radicalized caucus are proving too difficult to surmount. Whatever the explanation, thus far these GOP legislators are on track to be the least productive group since at least the Civil War.Now, okay, technically the Ryan-McConnell 115th Congress is so far actually a bit more active than recent Congresses, if you measure by the 43 laws that President Trump has adorned with his garish signature. Obama was at 40 at this point in 2009. George W. Bush had signed even fewer midway through 2001. But sheer number is not the best way to think about how much is being achieved. As The Washington Post‘s Philip Bump pointed out, a majority of the bills signed by Trump thus far have been one page long, meaning many are just symbolic or ceremonial.
Just six months ago, it looked like the Republican Party was about to go on a legislative blitzkrieg, shredding law after law passed by the Obama administration.
If you want to understand how much harder it is going to be for Republicans to get anything done than it was for the Democrats in 2009-2011, your best bet is to look at this intra-Republican distance. When Democrats were toiling away on what was to become the Affordable Care Act, the total distance between the most left-wing elected Democratic senator (Bernie Sanders) and the most right-wing (Nebraska’s Ben Nelson) was barely half the size of the canyon between Susan Collins and Mike Lee. Think about that for a second.
And it’s not like Collins is alone. She’s part of a cluster of three GOP senators, along with Lisa Murkowski and Shelly Moore Capito, who are much more liberal than the rest of the caucus. (By the way, it is not a coincidence that the GOP’s three most reasonable senators are women). Moreover, Mike Lee is part of a bloc of five far-right radicals — along with Jeff Flake, Rand Paul, Ben Sasse, and Ted Cruz — who are all substantially more conservative than anyone in the Senate during Barack Obama’s first two years in office. In a sane political system, there is a zero percent chance that Mike Lee and Susan Collins would be members of the same political party.