Robert Bluey

For the first time in history, the House of Representatives hit the 1,000-vote mark. It’s a thoroughly meaningless milestone, yet liberals proclaimed it a monumental accomplishment.

“Our job is to take America in a new direction, and we are working hard to do that,” a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told the Associated Press.

A closer look at the numbers tells a different story, however. The House could literally vote all day on measures such as motions to recommit and motions to adjourn. But lawmakers are busying themselves with other “priorities” as well -- such as naming post offices.

Of the 106 bills signed by President Bush into law this year, nearly half (46) name post offices, courthouses or roads. Another 44 bills were equally non-controversial measures, such as reconstruction of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis. Of the remainder, 14 bills merely extended existing laws. So much for “a new direction.”

Not everyone is pleased with the lack of achievement. As last week’s Democratic debacle over the State Children’s Health Insurance Program revealed, even moderate Republicans who have supported “new direction” initiatives from the Democrats are losing their patience. “I used to think they cared about the policy. Now I think they care more about the politics,” moderate Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) told the Washington Post. His colleague, Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.), actually switched his vote to oppose SCHIP after growing disheartened by the tactics employed by Democrats.

It’s unclear how Democrats will proceed on SCHIP, but with a Nov. 16 deadline looming, they might opt for a one-year extension rather than trying to work with Republicans on an alternative that would be palatable to both sides. President Bush said Friday that congressional Democrats haven’t even met with representatives of the administration to talk about finding a solution to the gridlock, an ominous sign that reflects LaHood’s sentiments.

A similar confrontation could take place this week when the Senate is expected to vote on the Labor/HHS/Education and Military Construction/Veterans Affairs spending bills. By combining the two bills, Democrats hope to pick off Republicans who are weary of voting against legislation that funds veterans programs, despite the high price tag and veto threats from Bush.


Robert Bluey

Robert B. Bluey is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation and maintains a blog at RobertBluey.com