President Barack Obama sent thrills up the collective legs of his supporters (and a few journalists) last week when he quoted Martin Scorsese’s The Departed during a campaign-style event. “I’m the guy doing my job. You must be the other guy,” Obama said, referring to congressional Republicans.
“It is lonely me just doing stuff,” the president continued. “I’d love it if the Republican did stuff, too.” It is worth noting that the president resorted to this bravado while he was ignoring calls from members of his party to see the border with his own eyes.
The president’s answer to that crisis was to harangue the House GOP for not passing one of his preferred legacy items, comprehensive immigration reform, and to insist that they pass a supplemental funding package before he will deign to address what he called the acute “humanitarian crisis” on the border.
In response to the president’s nakedly political effort to create some distance from this potentially damaging crisis, Congress has done what the president demanded: they are acting. Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn and Lone Star State Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar joined forces this week and introduced a plan to deal with the surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the border from noncontiguous nations.
The bipartisan plan to reverse the effects of a 2008 anti-human trafficking law which helped increase the number of migrant children crossing the border and expedite deportation and asylum hearings has, however, encountered one major obstacle: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“The Senate will receive a briefing for all 100 lawmakers on Wednesday evening, and Reid (D-Nev.) seemed unwilling to lay out a precise blueprint for how the chamber will move forward on the border crisis until senators speak to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and other top administration officials,” Politico reported on Wednesday.
Asked about the bipartisan, bicameral bill, Reid called it “too broad” and concluded: “The answer from me is: No, I won’t support it.”
“The law that has created some of the controversy now, there’s leeway there [so] that the executive branch of government doesn’t need new legislation,” Reid said of a 2008 human trafficking law that treats Central American unaccompanied minors differently than other migrants. “The Cornyn-Cuellar legislation covers a lot of issues, other issues than the problem we’re having at the border.”
Responding to his Democratic critics, Cornyn said that Congress can’t just “throw more money at this crisis” and dared Reid and others to present an alternative.
Those readers of news outlets that care to report such minor details as the accuracy of the president’s rhetoric will recognize that blocking legislation is nothing new from Reid. Democrats on the stump like to remind their voters that this Congress is one of the most inactive in American history, and they presumably hope that their audience will conclude that condition is the fault of House Republicans.
That is not entirely true.
“Aside from the several resolutions and less-critical bills that the Senate passes by unanimous consent at the end of the day, the Senate has held roll call votes to advance or pass legislation just 21 times in 27 weeks — less than one a week,” The Blaze’s Pete Kasperowicz reported on Tuesday. “And a full one-third of those votes have failed amid GOP complaints that they have no input into the process.”
Many have tagged the 113th Congress as the least-productive in history. Congress has passed the fewest number of bills into law in decades, a fact that some blame on the Republican House.
Last year’s statistics showed just how slow Congress, and in particular the Senate, has become at passing legislation. President Obama signed about 60 bills into law — a record low — and most of those bills originated in the House. Until the last few years, Congress had been able to send more than a 100 and sometimes more than 200 bills to the White House.
Maybe, just maybe, this latest and most brazen round of blocking employed by Reid will compel the media to report that it is not House Republicans but the Democratic Senate that has dramatically reduced legislative productivity. Perhaps the mainstream press will note that Obama has paid lip service to the urgency of the crisis on the border, but his chief ally in Congress is doing everything in his power to prevent a measure which would address a law which many of the president’s allies in the press have blamed for the present crisis.
Or maybe they are just hoping for another story to emerge which will dominate the news cycle and let them off the hook. The latter is a safer bet.