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Same As It Ever Was: Both Parties Fighting Old Battles

The Obama wars are coming to an end, but the candidates on the 2014 trail have decided to continue to the fight.
Image: Doctors protest against individual mandate in President Obama's health care reform in front of U.S. Supreme Court in Washington
A group of doctors protest against individual mandate in President Obama's health care reform in front of U.S. Supreme Court in Washington June 25, 2012. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS HEALTH CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)YURI GRIPAS / Reuters

If you thought American politics this midterm season seems stuck -- debating the same issues from past election cycles -- well, you’re not alone. Just look at the TV ads and messaging from the campaigns across the country. Republicans and GOP groups are attacking Obamacare (see this Americans for Prosperity TV ad hitting Mark Pryor in Arkansas), just like they did in 2010 and 2012. Democrats are arguing that Republicans want to “end Medicare as we know it,” while Republicans are countering that Democrats raided $700 billion from Medicare. Democrats are blasting Republicans for being on the wrong side of women’s issues (see this Alison Grimes spot knocking Mitch McConnell), and they’re also playing up abortion and contraception in the blue and purple states (like in this Mark Udall ad against Cory Gardner). Maybe the biggest difference between this year’s messaging and what we saw in 2010/2012 is on the economy: Now it’s incumbent Republican governors (such as Florida Gov. Rick Scott here) who are touting economic progress -- instead of Democrat Barack Obama who was doing it in ’12. So it’s not just the legislative process in Washington that is stuck; it’s the issue terrain, too. Democrats and Republicans are simply fighting the same battles, the ads and campaign messages are almost identical. What’s most depressing: There aren’t any NEW ideas, just rehashed talking points. It all brings to mind the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812 -- soldiers were fighting and dying, even though the war had already ended (the news simply hadn’t traveled to them yet). The Obama wars are coming to an end (and may have ended for the public), but the candidates on the 2014 trail have decided to continue to the fight.

Following Ted Cruz, House prepares vote on effort to prevent future DACAs

Speaking of the stuck legislative process, just check out the latest regarding the House GOP’s border-relief efforts. After the House easily passed a measure to reform the nation’s VA hospitals and after it voted to sue the president, NBC’s Frank Thorp has this dispatch: “House Republican leadership appears to be bending to the conservative wing of the party by allowing a vote Thursday to prohibit President Obama's ability to defer action on immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children. In addition to the border bill announced earlier this week, the House will vote Thursday on a bill introduced by Rep Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) that would prohibit President Obama from issuing executive orders similar to the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) action. The bill does not touch the actual 2012 DACA action, but only addresses the possibility of similar actions in the future. The move comes after a group of over a dozen conservative House Republicans met with Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) in his office Wednesday evening… Cruz has been actively advocating for the House to take up a bill that addresses DACA, which he and other conservatives say is the real reason for the influx of unaccompanied minors from Central American countries.” One other thing: Thorp notes that the House will ONLY vote on the DACA bill if the border supplemental passes. That was built into the rule that passed late last night.

Separate House GOP border-relief measure looks iffy

So what started out as an effort to respond to the humanitarian crisis at the border -- with thousands of young unaccompanied minors fleeing drug and gang violence -- has turned into a vote to prevent future ways for undocumented immigrants to gain legal status in the United States. (And as Thorp notes, the House already voted in June 2013 to defund the president’s ’12 DACA action.) As for the $659 million House GOP effort to provide emergency relief at the border, passage looks more iffy by the hour. The latest news here: The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol is arguing that House Republicans voted against Boehner’s own bill. Why? Because it forces Republicans to take a tough vote on a measure that the Senate will never accept. “So what's the point of passing it? Leadership's answer is—well, we'll get credit for trying to doing to something. But will they? From whom? The mainstream media?... GOP town halls during the August recess will be dominated by challenges about the merits of the bill leadership rushed through.” And then there are complaints from the House conservatives. “There is not a lot of support for the leadership bill, there is support for the DACA fix,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), per Thorp. “I think that you will see the DACA fix bill pass, but I don't know that there will be enough support to pass the bill that the leadership is putting forward.” Folks, if you haven’t realized it by now, there are two issues that animate conservative House Republicans: Obama and immigration. And remember: If Boehner doesn’t have the votes, he could pull the border bills. It’s truly amazing that the leadership has to fight so hard to pass a bill that has no chance to actually become law. So goes the Boehner Era trying to corral the Tea Party wing of his party.

The 113th Congress’ productivity (or lack thereof)

With Congress about to depart on its August recess after today’s activity, below are some statistics on the number of public bills enacted into law in each Congress dating back to the late 1940s. A few points:

1. Since the famous 80th “Do Nothing” Congress (1947-48) that Harry Truman campaigned against, there has been a steady decline in the number of public bills that have become law. That “Do Nothing” Congress enacted 906 laws; the 112th (2011-12) enacted just 283; and the current 113th is on a pace to enact even FEWER laws -- becoming arguably the least productive Congress in modern history.

2. The decline in the last two Congresses (112th and 113th) has been precipitous. Yes, we’ve had divided government before. But we’ve never seen so few laws being passed.

3. Republicans argue that these statistics aren’t the best way to measure congressional productivity (or lack thereof). They say their goal is often to PREVENT bad laws from being enacted. They also contend that the Senate hasn’t taken up measures the GOP-controlled House has passed. Still, here are the numbers:

  • 113th Congress (2013-14): 142 public laws as of July 30, 2014
  • 112th Congress (2011-12): 283 public laws (total)
  • At this SAME point in the 112th Congress: 151 (as of July 30, 2012) – so the 113th behind the pace of the 112th Congress
  • 111th Congress (2009-10): 383
  • 110th Congress (2007-2008): 460
  • 109th Congress (2005-2006): 482
  • 108th Congress (2003-2004): 498
  • 107th (2001-2002) : 377
  • 106th (1999-2000): 580
  • 105th (1997-98): 394
  • 104th (1995-96): 333
  • 103rd (1993-94): 465
  • 102nd (1991-92): 590
  • 101st (1989-90): 650
  • 100th (1987-88): 713
  • 99th (1985-86): 663
  • 98th (1983-84): 623
  • 97th (1981-82): 473
  • 96th (1979-80): 613
  • 95th (1977-78): 633
  • 94th (1975-76): 588
  • 93rd (1973-74): 649
  • 92nd (1971-72): 607
  • 91st (1969-70): 695
  • 90th (1967-68): 640
  • 89th (1965-66): 810
  • 88th (1963-64): 666
  • 87th (1961-62): 885
  • 86th (1959-60): 800
  • 85th (1957-58): 936
  • 84th (1955-56): 1,028
  • 83rd (1953-54): 781
  • 82nd (1951-52): 594
  • 81st (1949-50): 921
  • 80th (1947-48): 906

SOURCES: Library of Congress, Vital Statistics on Congress

Granite State of Mind

Meanwhile, after his recent spot in Iowa, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie heads today to New Hampshire. “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is coming to New Hampshire for the second time in little more than a month to campaign for Republican gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein,” the AP writes. “Christie has been crisscrossing the country this summer to bolster fellow Republicans as chair of the Republican Governors Association. But his schedule also is packed with stops in key states on the presidential nomination calendar.” A couple of things worth remembering: One, our recent NBC/Marist poll found a third of New Hampshire Republicans disliking Christie -- more than for any other potential 2016 GOPer. Two, the same conservative group that aired TV ads attacking his record on judges during his Iowa trip is doing the same thing in New Hampshire. Christie’s travel to New Hampshire comes as Politico’s Maggie Haberman wonders if the New Jersey governor could be a 2016 Comeback Kid, or if he’s a Dead Man Walking.

Wolf confronts Roberts

Lastly, with their primary next Tuesday, don’t miss Tea Party challenger Milton Wolf confronting Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) yesterday. The AP: “Wolf told Roberts he wanted the senator to keep his promise to debate him. Roberts says he has no plans to debate Wolf. At their meeting on the street, Roberts told Wolf it was not the time for the discussion and walked away as a small group of journalists and Wolf supporters watched. A Wolf supporter shouted at Roberts, ‘If you can’t face Milton Wolf, how can you face Obama?’” We’ll have much more on this GOP primary next week.

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