Here Is What The ‘Do-Nothing’ Congress Has Been Doing

Donald Trump has repeatedly vilified the “do-nothing” Congress.

He might genuinely believe Congress is “doing nothing.”

But what about the average American?

Is he or she even aware of how many bills the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives has passed since taking back the majority in January?

Are you?

The answer is 213.

Voting reforms, criminal justice, prescription drug prices, preexisting conditions, veterans issues–all saw legislation passed in the House this year.

The first to sail through the 116th Congress was House Resolution (HR) 1, or the “For The People Act,” which responds to voters’ demands for stronger electoral protections, such as automatic voter registration and small-donor public financing of elections.

But that isn’t all.

Here are some more examples from just the first four months of this year:

Health care

Civil rights


  • HR 9—Climate Action Now Act
  • HR 1331—Local Water Protection Act
  • S 47—National Resources Management Act
  • HR 2578—National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act of 2019
  • Military/foreign affairs
  • HR 840—Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act
  • HJ Res. 37—Directing the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress
  • SJ Res. 7—To direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress
  • HR 31—Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019
  • HJ Res. 30—Disapproving the President’s proposal to take an action relating to the application of certain sanctions with respect to the Russian Federation

The Mueller report

  • H.Con.Res. 24—Expressing the sense of Congress that the report of Special Counsel Mueller should be made available to the public and to Congress.
  • HR 1585—Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019
  • HR 1500—Consumers First Act
  • HR 1994—SECURE Act
  • HR 1644—Save the Internet Act of 2019
  • HR 2157—Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2019
  • HR 269—Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019
  • HR 251—Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Program Extension Act
  • S 24—Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019
  • HR 430—TANF Extension Act of 2019
  • Concurring in the Senate Amendments to HR 251—Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standard Program Extension Act
  • HR 790—Federal Civilian Workforce Pay Raise Fairness Act of 2019
  • HJ Res. 46—Relating to a national emergency declared by the President on February 15, 2019
  • H Res. 183—Condemning anti-Semitism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values and aspirations that define the people of the United States and condemning anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against minorities as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contrary to the values and aspirations of the United States, as amended
  • H Res. 194—Rule Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1644 and H.R. 2021
  • HR 2480—Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act
  • HR 375—To amend the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 to reaffirm the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for Indian Tribes (also known as the “Carcieri Fix”)

Votes to end the government shutdown

  • HR 21—Making appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, and for other purposes
  • HJ Res. 1—Making further continuing appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security for fiscal year 2019, and for other purposes
  • HR 265—Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019
  • HR 267—Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019
  • HR 266—Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019
  • HR 268—Disaster Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2019 (Disaster Supplemental and short-term continuing resolution through Feb. 8)
  • HR 264—Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act
  • HJ Res. 28—Further Additional Continuing Appropriations Act, 2019 (Short-term continuing resolution through Feb. 28)
  • HR 648—Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (Six conferenced bills minibus)
  • HJ Res. 31—Making further continuing appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security for fiscal year 2019 (Short-term homeland continuing resolution through Feb. 28)
  • Conference Report to Accompany HJ Res 31–Making consolidated appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, and for other purposes.

This list goes on.

So why is Trump able to get away with peddling the “do-nothing” lie?

The answer: Mitch McConnell.

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has adopted the sobriquet the “grim reaper” because of his unilateral ability to refuse to even bring legislation to the Senate floor for votes.

Earlier this year, McConnell said at a press conference:

“The Senate is the graveyard where bills that pass in the Congress, that have bipartisan support in the country, go to die.”

Just last week, Senate Republicans blocked three election security bills.

McConnell has only permitted three bills to see bipartisan light: one to reopen the federal government after the longest shutdown in history; a resolution to end U.S. involvement in Yemen (which Trump then vetoed); and an unfinalized $19.1 billion disaster aid agreement Texas Republican Chip Roy has blocked.

Even the first two years of the Trump presidency when Republicans held control of both houses of Congress, the only two major legislative so-called accomplishments were the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” that handed a $1.5 trillion permanent tax break to corporations and the wealthy, and the “First Step Act” criminal justice reform bill.

One thing on which McConnell has no problem acting, however, is ramming through a staggering quantity of federal judges to perpetuate Trumpism for generations.

Just after the 2018 mid-term elections in which the Republicans lost the House, McConnell commented at a press conference:

“You know what my top priority is? It’s the judiciary. We intend to keep confirming as many as we possibly can as long as we can do it.”

Republicans love to peddle the Fox News lie that Democrats spent the first two years of the Obama presidency with a supermajority sitting around twiddling their thumbs.

First of all, it wasn’t two years.

Second, they weren’t exactly twiddling their thumbs.

In 2012, Obama explained:

“First of all, Mitch McConnell has imposed an ironclad filibuster from the first day I was in office. And that’s not speculation. He gave a speech saying, ‘My task is to defeat the President.’

“So we were able to pass emergency action with the stimulus, but we had to get two votes from Republicans. One of them essentially was driven out of the party….We then…didn’t have 60 votes until essentially—there was a four- or five-month span. But at that point, we had already put in place the Recovery Act. We had already moved forward to help states avoid teacher layoffs and so forth.

“And we were already in the process of stabilizing the banks. We had already engineered the process that would save the auto industry. And there was not going to be any appetite among Democrats or Republicans to take additional actions until we saw the progress that was making — that needed to be made.

“And the suggestion somehow that if we hadn’t pursued Obamacare, somehow we would have gotten additional stimulus out of the Republicans, for example, that we could have primed the pump more, that’s just not borne out by any of the evidence.”

So, the simple answer to “Why isn’t Congress getting anything done?” is “It is.”

But the caveat that the Senate is railroading the House’s legislation must follow.

Nuance matters.

We should not allow the reductive fallacy to persist.

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Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.