'Those knuckleheads in Congress never do anything!" is one of the most tired and commonplace complaints from callers on political talk radio. And yes, many Republicans have found 2017 frustrating so far. No, President Trump hasn't signed more bills into law than any president ever, as he asserted this month. (He's signed 42, many of them symbolic resolutions.) No, Congress hasn't yet repealed Obamacare, passed sweeping tax reform, or negotiated an infrastructure bill.
But don't blame the House of Representatives. They passed their version of health-care reform back at the beginning of May. House Speaker Paul Ryan is unveiling a plan for tax reform, and the House has passed a couple of smaller but still significant infrastructure bills.
In fact, the House keeps sending bills over to the Senate, month after month: 250 in all so far this year, according to GovTrack. Quite of few of those bills are minor — land swaps, expansion of historic sites, renaming post offices — but a significant number would count as accomplishments worth boasting about on the campaign trail next year if they were signed into law.
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Sources close to Republican House leaders are quick to point out that they don't want to seem too critical of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They say they understand there's a different set of challenges on that side of Capitol Hill, with a much smaller GOP margin, the Democrats' filibuster threats, and the Senate's own full plate of confirming the president's cabinet and judicial nominations. But they feel like the House has pulled its weight so far this year. As one source close to Ryan put it, "The House is doing its job and the bills are piling up in the Senate."
"If you turn on the TV, it says Russia this and Russia that and countdown clocks and all this stuff," Ryan said in an interview with Mike Gallagher earlier this month. "We're doing a lot of other things here in the Congress; we're not letting that stuff distract us. We have done so much of our agenda already in the House in the first six months."
If any House bill broke through the constant noise generated by the investigation of Russian meddling in the election and the president's tweets, it was "Kate's Law." This bill, named for Kate Steinle, a San Francisco woman killed by an illegal immigrant who was in the U.S. despite multiple deportations, would require a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years for any undocumented immigrant convicted of illegally reentering the United States after being deported.