WASHINGTON — The House, paralyzed for days, had trouble choosing a speaker. The Senate is holding token votes just to pass the time. America’s most powerful lawmakers have been turning heads, unable to hold hearings because no committees have been established.
Welcome to the Seinfeld Congress. It’s a show about nothing.
A month later, the 118th Congress is off to a spectacularly slow start, frustrating some lawmakers and portending two messy years of government divided into a presidential election cycle where very little is expected to get done.
Forget making historical laws. It’s not even clear that the new Congress can agree to keep the government functional or avoid a self-imposed economic collapse.
“I have very low expectations,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said in an interview. “I would predict, and I hope I am wrong, that this will be one of the least productive congresses in modern history due to the dysfunctionality of a shaky majority.”
House Republicans hold a four-seat majority that empowers a few agitators to wreak havoc in the chamber. They spent the first five days arguing with each other about whether Kevin McCarthy should be the speaker. After 15 votes, the most since 1859, he finally won the gavel, but not before a physical altercation broke out on the House floor.
On the other side of the Capitol, things are moving even slower. The Democratic-controlled Senate voted just three times in the entire month of January. During the first month of 2017, the Senate voted 35 times; in 2015, he voted 46 times.
“This certainly is an incredibly slow start,” said John Thune, RS.D. «Not much is happening.»
Last week, the Senate voted on a measure to designate January as «National Bullying Awareness Month,» which faced no opposition and could have been adopted immediately. But apparently the camera had nothing to do that day and needed to fill the time.
On Tuesday, usually one of the busiest days of the legislative week, the Senate did not vote at all. And on Wednesday, the Senate voted on a resolution declaring January «National Trafficking and Modern Slavery Prevention Month.» The vote was 97 to 0, again indicating that a recorded vote was unnecessary; the chamber could have approved it unanimously.
“This week we stand firm against bullies. Today, thanks to my good friend, Senator Schumer, we are speaking out strongly against drug dealers,” mocked Senator John Kennedy, R-Los Angeles. “I heard a rumor, I don’t know if it’s true, but I think Chuck will ask us tomorrow to stand up strongly against pedophiles. It’s been a busy week.»
“The mind-boggling pace of the Senate earlier this year is certainly staggering,” quipped Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. «I don’t think I’ve ever seen a slower start than a new Congress kicked off in the Senate.»
On Wednesday, six days after Senate Democrats announced their committee appointments, Senate Republicans followed suit. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said Wednesday that the delay was because the Republican caucus process was «a little more cumbersome than ours» and that he is «very hopeful» that the caucuses can be officially formed on Thursday.
One of the heists: Freshman Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Missouri, wanted a coveted seat on the Judiciary Committee. But there’s already a Missouri Republican on that panel, and there aren’t enough seats. His colleagues refused to grant him a waiver or vacate a position for him.
The House is often more rebellious than the Senate. But the last few weeks have been particularly unfocused in the lower house.
Much of the distraction came from one man, freshman Rep. George Santos, RN.Y., who has been arguing with the media every day about his numerous fabrications and embellishments on his resume and personal biography.
McCarthy gets questions about Santos at almost every press conference, and his Republican colleagues are also constantly getting questions about the apparently serial liar in the hallways. On Wednesday, NBC news confirmed that the FBI is investigating Santos’ role in a fundraising scheme involving the dying service dog of a disabled Navy veteran.
This week, House Republicans had to delay a vote to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, from the Foreign Affairs Committee because the panel had not yet been established.
“It sounds like a parody of Seinfeld,” said representative Brendan Boyle, D-Pa.
Not everyone on The Hill agrees that nothing is being done. When asked about the congressional snail’s pace, Rep. Dusty Johnson, RS.D., pulled out his notebook where he had jotted down a list of measures passed by the House in recent weeks: Create a select committee on China’s competitiveness , ban sales to China from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, ending the Covid-19 public health emergency and forcing federal workers to return to the office.
«Did 117 really pass six substantial laws, four of them bipartisan and several of them with a legitimate chance of becoming law?» asked.
Meanwhile, a routine Judiciary Committee organizational meeting on Wednesday turned into a nearly hour-long debate on the Pledge of Allegiance. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., offered an amendment that would allow members to invite «inspirational constituents» to lead the compromise before each committee hearing.
But Democrats opposed it, and Rep. David Cicilline, DR.I., unsuccessfully tried to amend Gaetz’s amendment to make it clear that the «insurgents» who backed Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election could not lead the promise.
Cries broke out between Republicans and Democrats. Then the official Twitter account of the House Republican Party tweeted the outdated 1892 version of the Pledge of Allegiance, which was written by New York socialist Francis Bellamy.
«I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic it represents: an indivisible Nation, with Liberty and Justice for all.»
The tweet was quickly deleted.