Filing a bill is cheap advertising to the gullible
“Our” Representative to the U.S. House of Representatives from eastern Washington, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA CD5), got a breathless, above-the-fold headline in the Northwest section of the Spokesman last Friday, “McMorris Rodgers bill would require VA hospitals to hold regular town hall meetings”. In her weekly email newsletter (the one her staff avoids sending to anyone identified as critical of her) she further touts her bill, the “Town Halls for Veterans Act”, aka H.R. 3114.
Let’s put this press-release-inspired bit of self-promotion in perspective within the workings of Congress. First, if it were to become law, this bill would do next to nothing to address Veterans Hospital issues. It would “require the Department of Veterans Affairs to hold quarterly town hall meetings at each of the nation’s 171 VA hospitals.” That is the sum total of the bill. (See the actual bill text here. The functional text is one short paragraph.) If this is the best McMorris Rodgers can do to tackle the problems presented by the electronic medical records rollout at the VA, it is a sad commentary on her understanding of what it takes to actually address an issue.
With all the Spokesman fanfare over McMorris Rodgers’ bill one might imagine that it was about to become law. Wait a minute. She just now introduced it. Its bill number is 3114 in the lineup of bills filed in the House of Representatives for this two-year session of Congress. She hasn’t lined up a single co-sponsor. The bill “will be referred to the House Veterans Affairs Committee, of which McMorris Rodgers is not a member.” Realistically, the likelihood of this bill even being taken up in committee (the first step) approaches zero. Is this the best McMorris Rodgers can do after warming a seat in Congress for more than seventeen years?
McMorris Rodgers’ touted bill, its press release, and its coverage on her website, in her “newsletter”, and in the Spokesman article, are cheap advertising to suggest that she is actually accomplishing something. If you don’t feel insulted—you should.
Meanwhile, on April 26 McMorris Rodgers cast her Yea vote along with all but four of her Republican colleagues in the U.S. House for H.R. 2811 – the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023. The 320 page bill is House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s and House Republican’s threat to force the federal government into debt default. The payoff in exchange for Republicans not disrupting the world economy? Democrats must agree to dismantle climate change initiatives, increase permitting for oil and gas drilling, nullify the student debt relief program, add new work requirements for beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and reduce funding for the IRS, among other things.
In their 320 page bill Republicans strategically avoid specifying the magnitude (and many of the targets) of their proposed cost-cutting. Instead, they expect Democrats to propose the exact cuts, whereupon Republicans will cast blame at Democrats for the cuts they’d be forced to make if they agreed to this extortion. McMorris Rodgers, while proposing nonsense for fixing the VA Hospitals, neglects to mention (or is she so ignorant as to be unaware?) that the cost-cutting levels demanded by the Limit, Save, Grow Act would severely impact funding for the Veterans Administration she wants her constituents to believe she is defending.
McMorris Rodgers and her fellow Republicans are counting on voters lack of focus on what the proposed cuts would mean. Republicans are (for the moment) boxed out of threatening Social Security or Medicare. Similarly, they have no history of curtailing Pentagon spending. That leaves the rest of the discretionary budget from which to extract their cuts. If cuts were made to satisfy their demands the shortfall would result in a 22% decrease in spending overall. Any preserved level funding in any one department would require an even greater spending decrease in the remaining departments. For instance, if the VA were entirely spared, the remaining departments would lose 30%. (More cuts from the IRS? EPA? Education? National Parks? You choose.)
So let’s balance a 22% spending cut to the Veterans Administration against McMorris Rodgers’ bill to require “town halls”. The cut is effectively what she already voted to pass in the House; in contrast, the “town hall” proposal will never be heard in Committee.
McMorris Rodgers is either ignorant herself or she is counting on the ignorance and inattention of the voters she pretends to represent. Meanwhile, her Yea vote on the Republican debt ceiling hostage bill risks plunging the world into recession. Sent this woman packing in 2024.
Keep to the high ground,