Opinion: The Do-Nothing GOP House

When President Harry Truman attacked the ‘Do-Nothing Congress’ during the 1948 campaign, he probably never envisioned a time when Capitol Hill would actually see one.

But for a good chunk of 2023, that’s been standard GOP procedure — doing nothing on the U.S. House floor — as Republicans fight with each other.

Ginned up by conservative media, House Republicans are in danger of creating lasting internal divisions while getting little done legislatively.

We saw that at the Capitol this week, when allies of U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, refused to accept his initial GOP election loss, and instead kept pressing for him to be the next Speaker of the House.

“You’re telling me that’s the way a team works? Not any team that I’ve ever played on,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., who played football at Notre Dame.

Frankly, the GOP battle over a new Speaker has little to do with issues. It’s about power.

On one side is a group of Republicans who want their party to be much more aggressive, but don’t really have a game plan to translate that into actual laws.

“I’m not backing down,” said U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas. “We’re going to change this town or bust.”

But the amount of time House Republicans have spent this year on their own internal fights instead of addressing issues is staggering.

The year began not with votes on the GOP agenda, but a four-day, 15-ballot marathon to elect Kevin McCarthy as Speaker.

While McCarthy guided the House to approval of a major border security bill in May, things soon went sideways.

In June, conservatives blocked all work on the House floor for a week, angered by a debt limit deal with President Biden.

July featured GOP wrangling over a Pentagon policy bill. The Freedom Caucus then sidetracked a government funding bill, sending lawmakers home on a 6-week summer break while differences were left to fester.

After Labor Day, it was no better. Conservatives blocked debate on spending bills for over two weeks. There was a spasm of legislative action at the end of September but that stopped with McCarthy’s ouster.

Republicans certainly have legitimate gripes about not getting the Senate to act on issues like immigration. But much of that is overshadowed by their own intraparty wrestling match — which never seems to end.

It bears repeating that the GOP has the same slim House majority Democrats had last Congress. While Democrats piled up the accomplishments, Republicans have struggled for months to get anything done.

Will the Do-Nothing House of 2023 become a central campaign issue like the Do-Nothing Congress of 1948?

Harry Truman might give it his approval.

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