Americans are disgusted that Washington has become dysfunctional, even as Americans struggle with ever greater challenges — from stagnant wages and growing inequality to catastrophic climate change to soaring health-care costs to a decrepit and dangerously aged infrastructure. President Donald Trump blames House Democrats, saying they are “getting nothing done in Congress.”
Don’t believe it. The record is clear: The Democratic majority in the House has passed major reforms that would begin to address America’s challenges. All of them have been blocked by Republicans in the Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, who calls himself the “grim reaper” dedicated to killing reform.
As of July, in their first half year as the majority, House Democrats had passed a total of 569 bills that are blocked in the Senate. These include major reforms that would make America better. Consider: The For the People Act — HR 1 — contained the most comprehensive campaign finance and voting reforms since the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
It would have made it easier to register to vote, harder to gerrymander districts, forced disclosure of secret funds, required paper ballots to limit election interference and would have begun to counter the influence of big money in our elections. McConnell refuses even to allow a vote in the Senate. HR 5 — the Equality Act — extends civil rights protections to members of the LGBTQ community.
This is long overdue. McConnell refuses to allow a vote in the Senate. HR 6 — the American Dream and Promise Act — would have protected the Dreamers and offered a path to citizenship to 2 million immigrants without official status. McConnell refuses to allow a vote in the Senate. HR 7 — the Paycheck Fairness Act — would have strengthened measures to counter the growing pay gap between men and women. No vote in the Senate. HR 8 — the Bipartisan Background Checks Act — would have required universal background checks in the sale of guns, a reform supported by the vast majority of Americans. No vote in the Senate.
This list can go on. The Raise the Wage Act would have raised the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. House Democrats passed a bill to return the U.S. to the Paris Climate Accord, which Trump scorns. House Democrats have passed legislation that would protect those with pre-existing conditions and lower prescription drug prices.
They’ve acted to save net neutrality. They’ve passed nine bills to aid veterans, including extending childcare to veterans with young children. House Democrats put forth a major plan to rebuild our infrastructure; Trump stormed out of the meeting set up to discuss it. When the Senate actually passed a House resolution to get U.S. forces out of the Yemen catastrophe, Trump vetoed it.
The House isn’t paralyzed; the Senate is. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi summarized, “the Senate is the graveyard where bills that pass in the Congress, that have bipartisan support in the country, go to die.”
For McConnell and Republicans, paralysis is a partisan political ploy. McConnell openly brags about the strategy. With Trump dominating the air waves, they believe that they can pin the blame for legislative paralysis on the Democrats. Now Trump uses paralysis as part of his defense strategy, arguing falsely that Democrats can’t investigate his crimes and legislate good reforms at the same time. McConnell doesn’t even deign to offer an alternative agenda and the Trump administration doesn’t have one.
When Republicans controlled everything for two years after Trump’s election, they passed only two notable reforms: an obscene tax bill that benefited the rich and the CEOs, and a decent criminal justice reform bill that made the first steps toward reducing mass incarceration. Republicans failed to offer a coherent alternative to the Affordable Care Act. They failed to offer a serious plan to rebuild our infrastructure.
The administration rolled back protections of our air and water, and Republicans looked the other way. The paralysis in Washington won’t change until McConnell and Senate Republicans start losing elections. They are standing in the way of reforms this country desperately needs. And they will continue to do so, until voters move them out of the way.