Senate, Having Done Virtually Nothing All Year, Is on Vacation Again

This op-ed was originally published at Washington Examiner on October 11, 2017.

It’s October, roughly 10 months into the 115th Congress. Apart from the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, as well as the confirmations of administration posts, what exactly has the Senate done this year?

Well, the Republican-controlled Senate did manage to sell the farm to Democrats in March with the passage of a terrible omnibus spending bill. Oh, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., did manage to get a debt ceiling increase through the chamber. These aren’t wins for grass-roots conservatives who were promised that all Republicans needed was to win control of Congress and win the White House to deliver on campaign promises to reduce the size and scope of government.

The Republican-controlled Senate has proved to be a tremendous disappointment. Remember when all we needed was control of the Senate to repeal Obamacare? This was supposed to be the first order of business. We’re weeks away from the Fall Classic and Obamacare remains the law of the land. Thanks, McConnell. You’ve done a bang-up job.

When Senate Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare in July, McConnell said the Senate would stay in session for two additional weeks, cutting into the August recess. Senators stayed in town for one week, bolting from Washington without any real progress. Now, with the House passing a budget to begin work on tax reform, where is the Senate?

They’re not working, that’s for sure.

The best argument supporting the Senate’s vacation from last Friday until Oct. 16 is that they will get as much done on vacation as they have during their working days this year: virtually nothing. But surely an argument based on the miserable failure of the past is no reason for the Senate to take a vacation.

The Senate has really proved only one thing this year: It is possible to have even fewer workdays than the cushy Senate schedules of past years. As Rachel Bovard recently pointed out, they only worked 2.5 days per week this year. Most weeks start off on Mondays at 5:30 p.m. for a couple quick votes to qualify the day as an in-session day. On Thursdays, they are often headed out of town by early afternoon, as early as noon.

They work the length of the weekend and they take off the length of the workweek. And, at $174,000 a year, they make more than three times the median income of the average American household.

Grass-roots activists have had enough of the excuses. They worked to get the majority in the House, to get the majority in the Senate, and to get a Republican in the White House. They have no legislative accomplishments to show for it, even with reconciliation, which allows bills to pass with 51 votes, even for the two bills that have been the focus this year: Obamacare repeal and tax reform.

As the year begins to come to an end, it’s now public that big donors are also losing their patience and shutting off the flow of donations to the Republican Party. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

This threat is not registering with Republican leadership — as in, it does not compute. How can you go on vacation when you have gotten nothing done, have broken campaign promises, and have not gotten the FY 2018 budget, the vehicle to start tax reform, to the floor for a vote when it needs to be passed this year?

Besides the fundraising woes facing the beleaguered Republican Party, votes are very much at stake. Tax reform must happen this year to be felt next year before the elections — and that tax reform has to include dramatic simplification, closed loopholes, and lower rates. No amount of resources spent on tax professionals should be able to bring any multibillion-dollar company’s tax burden to zero. And typical American families should not have to hire anyone to fill out their tax returns quickly and to know that they can fulfill their legal tax obligations without overpaying.

With more than 74,000 pages, the tax code is too long to read, much less understand. It is too complex, with compliance taking up 8.9 billion hours and costing $409 billion.

The unified framework released a week and a half ago simplifies the tax code, consolidates and lowers tax rates, and will create more jobs by providing long overdue tax relief to small business owners.

Any member of the Senate with an ‘R’ next to his or her name who cannot see or who ignores the need to actually log some hours to advance this fundamental tax reform may find voters back home who send them on a permanent vacation from Washington.

Jason Pye (@pye) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is the director of public policy and legislative affairs for FreedomWorks.