Opinion: Some GOP bills go missing on Capitol Hill

The U.S. House of Representatives and Capitol Dome on May 28, 2023, in Washington, DC. (Anna Rose Layden/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

The U.S. House of Representatives and Capitol Dome on May 28, 2023, in Washington, DC. (Anna Rose Layden/Getty Images/TNS)

With divided control in Congress, there’s a good chance that no matter what Republicans pass in the U.S. House or Democrats approve in the U.S. Senate, those bills may go nowhere fast in the other body.

But Republicans are taking things to a new level in this Congress. The GOP is passing substantive bills in the House, but then Republicans aren’t even sending some of their bills over to the Senate for further action.

One example is the top legislative priority of the GOP, a bill to spur domestic energy production. It bears the moniker of H.R. 1 – the most important piece of legislation in the 118th Congress.

But while that energy bill was approved by the House on March 30, five months later, records show the bill still hasn’t gone to the Senate.

“The new House majority is unleashing the power of our natural resources with H.R. 1,” declared U.S. Rep. Mike Collins, R-Jackson, as he called on the Senate to act.

That’s not the only bill House Republicans are sitting on.

On May 11, the House approved a GOP plan designed to recover fraudulently paid COVID unemployment benefits - but that was never sent to the Senate.

The same thing happened on health care, as the House passed a GOP measure that lets small companies join together to offer group health plans.

“Competition is the only way to drive down costs,” argued U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Evans, as he denounced the Obama health law.

But evidently that GOP health bill — approved on June 21 — wasn’t important enough to send over to the Senate, either.

Also in limbo is the first government spending bill for 2024, which funds military construction and veterans programs. That passed the House on July 27 but hasn’t been sent to the Senate as yet.

When I tell people who know legislative procedure in Congress about this, I get furrowed brows.

“I can’t remember anything like that,” said Josh Huder, a Congressional expert at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute. “Passing the bills then instructing the clerk to hold them strikes me as a new wrinkle.”

Part of it has to do with legislative strategy. By holding back bills with revenue or spending provisions, House Republicans limit what Senate Democrats can do on those matters.

But even that seems odd, given that Senate Democrats have only 51 votes, and can’t break a filibuster on anything remotely controversial. Asked about the unusual procedure, Republicans have offered no explanation.

Some of you may remember the Schoolhouse Rock cartoon, “I’m Just a Bill,” which joyfully reminds us how a bill gets through Congress.

That bill didn’t go missing. But things are different now on Capitol Hill.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com