By one key measure, it is now official: This is the most authoritarian Congress in history.
The House Rules Committee, meeting in its ornate chamber on the third floor of the Capitol on Monday night, sent two bills to the House floor under “closed” rules — that is, legislation that must be rubber stamped in toto, without being amended by so much as a comma. That brings the number of closed rules in this Congress to 84, beating the previous record of 83 set in 2014, according to the Democrats’ tally (a Republican tally counts one fewer). And here’s the truly remarkable part: Republicans have another seven months in this Congress to run up the score.
There are various explanations for this. But what this means in practical terms is the GOP majority has used parliamentary maneuvers to block votes on amendments to legislation that would likely pass with broad bipartisan support — on outsourcing jobs, immigration, gun safety, disaster relief, Social Security, Medicare, the environment, prescription drug costs, Pell Grants, national security, criminal-justice reform, veterans’ benefits, drinking water, child nutrition and maternal health.
But this heavy-handedness hasn’t produced much: just 14 bills signed into law that aren’t ceremonial or rejecting previous regulations. Last week, conservative Republicans brought down the farm bill, normally a popular piece of legislation, because they had a dispute with Republican leaders — over a separate immigration bill.
Hillary Clinton warns of a “full-fledged crisis in our democracy.” Rex Tillerson, the former secretary of state fired by President Trump, now warns that “American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.” (Too bad he didn’t say so when he was on the job.)
They are both correct, in a sense, but right now the fear of the United States going totalitarian doesn’t feel quite right. This crowd is too clownish to be Stalinist. Rather, the United States is turning into a banana republic:
The president of the United States orders the Justice Department to investigate his political opponents. The Justice Department complies.
The president, The Post reports, personally urged the postmaster general to double the rate it charges Amazon, apparently because he doesn’t like the coverage by The Washington Post, owned by Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos.
Trump settles a trade dispute with China on terms even his allies say are too favorable