Introducing Legislation: Ploy or Principles?


Every year in Congress, thousands of bills are introduced. A bare five percent become law, and many of those that do not were introduced, cosponsored, or promoted for the sole reason of making political resumes more attractive to voters. Often, bills are introduced as a public relations move designed to redeem elected officials for voting against constituents’ interests.

This week, two Republican Senators have publicized forthcoming legislation that appears to fall squarely in this category. The first is Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), and the second is Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN).

Throughout the latter part of 2013, Rubio has been attempting to shore up grassroots support, which was heavily damaged by his months-long promotion of amnesty. One conspicuously-timed bill focused on abortion, which the Senator introduced to ban abortions at 20 weeks:

Here’s the silver lining to comprehensive immigration reform, conservatives. Having spent loads of his right-wing political capital on pandering furiously to centrist Republicans and Latino voters with amnesty, Rubio will work overtime the next two years to earn some of it back by pandering furiously to you.

This week, Rubio continued that practice when he announced plans to introduce legislation to “delay the federal government’s ability to fine Americans if they don’t buy health insurance by next year,” saying that the exchange website’s utter failure should not harm the American people writ large.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is also playing constituent catch-up. He has taken a lot of heat from Tea Party activists in his state, particularly for supporting the Senate’s amnesty bill. Alexander, who is running for re-election against a Tea Party candidate in the Republican primary, further angered the grassroots when voted for the Senate’s deal to end the “shutdown,” and released this statement:

I voted in September against shutting down the government, and today I voted to reopen it and to make sure that the United States pays its bills on time. We need to redouble our efforts to fix our country’s $16.7 trillion federal debt. We could start by passing the Corker-Alexander plan to reduce out-of-control entitlement spending by $1 trillion over the next 10 years.

Since then, it has been reported that he is writing legislation to require transparency on the exchanges, including:

Rep. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is writing legislation that would require the Obama administration to provide weekly reports to Congress and the states about enrollment under ObamaCare.

His bill would also require updates on efforts to solve the technical problems that have prevented people from enrolling online, and information about ObamaCare “navigators” that help people enroll.

Like Rubio’s forthcoming bill, the Alexander legislation has no chance of becoming law given the current political make-up, leaving the grassroots to wonder why he’s wasting time and taxpayer resources. While Alexander has defended his past actions by saying he is part of the “take-over-the-government crowd,” not “the shut-down-the-government crowd,” pushing for minimal legislation that will not become law leaves him in the “flailing wildly crowd,” especially since repealing Obamacare his way will not happen before 2017 at the earliest.

Rubio and Alexander are two Republicans whose voting records are more establishment than not. Rubio is still recovering from establishment GOP-itis in the national spotlight, and Alexander is facing a tough primary fight next year that immigration and his recent vote to fund Obamacare will damage.

An optimistic view is they are trying to put pressure on their Democratic colleagues. But, since Democrats have proven their refusal to negotiate, it appears they are simply trying to give themselves booster points for their political futures.