The same House Republican majority that spent the entire past two years haranguing Senate Democrats for ignoring piles of legislation has a new strategy.The upside for Republicans, they say, is that a "Senate first" strategy forces Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2014 to take tough votes. The downside, they say, is that if the Senate does pass bipartisan legislation, it puts pressure on the House to act.
Let the Senate act first — on nearly everything.
Whether it’s an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, renewing the Violence Against Women Act or retooling gun regulations after mass shootings across the nation, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is perfectly fine with sitting on his hands. The House GOP’s days of incessantly repealing President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul are gone, as are their bills to eliminate obscure regulations.
Both of those things are probably true, but I think calling this a strategy is overanalyzing the situation. The reason the House isn't taking the lead on immigration reform, the Violence Against Women Act, or gun control is pretty easy to understand: they just aren't priorities for House Republicans. And it's also not hard to understand why they aren't passing yet more legislation to repeal Obamacare: doing so would look idiotic after the Supreme Court ruling and the president's reelection.
To the extent that the House is passing fewer "message bills" than they did during the last Congress, the lesson is equally simple: it's a tacit concession that their agenda is not popular. Believe me, when House Republicans come up with a piece of legislation that they think is a political winner, they won't sit around and wait for the Senate to act.
All that being said, it will still be interesting to see how the House responds when the Senate does take action. As Raju and Sherman point out, Senate passage of The Violence Against Women Act provides an opportunity to find out the answer to that question. But on issues like immigration reform and gun control, the question at this point is less about how House Republicans might handle a hypothetical piece of bipartisan legislation and more about whether Senate Republicans will actually let anything pass.