Politics & Policy

Hillary’s Senate Accomplishment: One Bill Enacted into Law, to Name a Federal Building

Senator Hillary Clinton on Capitol Hill in 2005 (Michaela Rehle/Reuters)
In eight years, her one concrete achievement was getting a courthouse renamed for Thurgood Marshall.

Democrats have been using their convention speeches this week to make Hillary Clinton look like a can-do politician. On Tuesday, Bill Clinton flatly declared, “She’s a natural leader, she’s a good organizer, and she’s the best darn change-maker I ever met in my entire life.”

We heard speech after speech about how Hillary cares about the children, about her innovative ability to solve problems. But there is a reason the speeches lack specific examples.

Hillary wasn’t much of a change-maker in the U.S. Senate. Sure, being president is different from being a senator, but both jobs require making deals. Both offices require drawing up proposals and winning the support of others. Given all of the insight she must have gained as first lady, one might have expected her to be better at pushing legislation. She intimately knew all of the players, had Bill by her side, and had access to the tremendous wealth of the Clinton Foundation.

Yet, Hillary’s Senate career is defined by safe, noncontroversial bills, most of which were essentially pure fluff and yet she couldn’t get them passed.

In her eight years in the Senate, just one of Hillary’s bills got enacted into law. This bill designated the U.S. courthouse at 40 Centre Street in New York City as the “Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse.”

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Hillary had eleven other bills that were passed by the Senate, but none made it through the House. Four of those bills were to rename U.S. Postal Service offices. Then there was another courthouse renaming, a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and another commemoration for the 225th Anniversary of the American Revolution.

Talk about safe, inconsequential bills. Who would oppose a bill honoring wounded veterans? Amazingly, she couldn’t even get her feel-good, Purple Heart bill passed. At the end of the day, her legislation didn’t really do much to help everyday Americans.

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The five remaining bills had only slightly more substance. Two asked the secretary of agriculture to map out a possible wilderness reserve in Puerto Rico. Another sought to authorize $500,000 to “improve and coordinate the dissemination of [elderly] care information and resources to family caregivers.” Another would have allowed the secretary of veterans affairs to provide advice on prosthetics, orthotics, and rehabilitation to victims of landmines. A fifth bill proposed to extend unemployment insurance in 2001, but there was nothing unique about that bill. It appears as though it was actually a gift to her so that she could claim an accomplishment.

There were no bills aiming to help take care of children. So much for the image that everyone has been trying so hard to construct this week.

The Puerto Rico bills didn’t even mandate the creation of a wilderness reserve. Apparently, Hillary wanted something that she could tell her Puerto Rican constituents about.

#related#Some of Clinton’s inability to pass legislation might have been due to Republican control of the House, but Democrats controlled both the House and Senate for one full session of Congress while she was in office. Republicans may have wanted to prevent Clinton from passing legislation; for the same reasons, Democrats would have probably moved bills so she could demonstrate her legislative prowess. Yet even when the Democrats controlled both houses, Clinton wasn’t able to get legislation enacted.

Of course, Hillary’s isn’t alone with this type of record. Her vice-presidential running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, also has no legislative accomplishments.

There only seems to be one explanation for all of this. Hillary already knew that the Democrats would eventually nominate her to be president. Her strategy was thus to do nothing that could possibly be used against her. The only amazing thing is that she couldn’t even get these pieces of fluff passed.

Did she simply not care or was it an inability to accomplish even that task? Only Hillary might know the answer to that question.


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