Do you want some good news out of the gargantuan budget bill now making its way through Congress? Buried among the mountains of pork and assorted unmentionables, there is one random provision I really like. It requires the Congressional Research Service — which does a huge amount of very valuable policy research for Congress — to make all its work public online for the first time. That’s fantastic, and long overdue. The Congressional scorekeepers, CBO and JCT, should be required to make all their modeling and analysis public next.
Do you want more good news out of that bill? I don’t really have any. There are here and there some ways that Congress could have done much worse and didn’t. That’s good. But as fiscal policy, as an example of how Congress now works, and as substantive legislation on a broad range of issues, the bill is an ignominious fiasco. It is also likely to be the last piece of major legislation enacted this year. There will be smaller items in a couple of areas, but few if any opportunities to enact meaningful policy changes.
Republicans are (at least nominally) in control of both of the elected branches of the federal government. It’s true there is a lot working against them — a narrow Senate majority, an unfit and incompetent president, a passionately radicalized opposition party, internal divisions of various sorts. Sure. But failure on this scale is nonetheless ultimately a choice they have made, or the sum of a series of choices. If we needed yet more evidence of the need for fundamental renewal in the GOP, here it is.