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Republicans Getting Credit in Media for Thinking About Doing Their Jobs

Yesterday the House GOP continued its bold jobs agenda by passing a bill to ban abortion coverage in the health insurance exchanges. But on a parallel track, Republican leaders are also bringing forward additional measures that have a jobs component.

House Republicans are doing an about-face, breathing life into expensive legislation long considered dead in Congress, showing that, yes, they do believe the federal government should be spending money on domestic programs.

Speaker John Boehner is starting with the mother of all public works bills — directing top aides to work with the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on a six-year highway bill to rebuild the nation’s transportation infrastructure. The last such highway bill cost $286 billion — House Republicans have not released cost projections for a new one.

That same committee is also looking for a permanent funding fix for the Federal Aviation Administration, a bill that has been extended 22 times without a fresh rewrite. The four-year authorizing cost on this one could approach $60 billion.

And Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee are pining for Congress to move a tariff bill that would give special breaks to a wide swath of foreign companies that produce things like obscure chemicals not available in the U.S. — legislation that has previously been dismissed because these measures qualify as earmarks, something Republicans have banned.

For all the emphasis from Politico on the size of these bills, this is called “Congress doing its job.” The FAA authorization has been extended 22 times in a row with short-term authorizations. Similarly, the surface transportation bill is also years late. The tariff bill sounds more like the Republican favor factory at work. But with the rest, House Republicans are actually doing the bare minimum of legislating.

Or at least, they’re starting to. So far, the surface transportation and the FAA bills have not materialized. I’m pretty sure House Republicans still haven’t named the conferees for a House-Senate conference on the FAA bill, months after both chambers passed their own version. There’s no price tag attached to the transportation bill, suggesting that talks are in the very preliminary stages. And Boehner wants to pay for it through increased royalty payments from domestic oil drilling, which is fanciful.

And there’s still no chatter in the Capitol about what to do on appropriations for Fiscal Year 2012, which run out November 18. The Senate may move a few spending bills over the next week, but that’s just a quarter of the total work needed to be done, and there are serious House-Senate differences.

So let’s say that the idea that Republicans have seen the light and are suddenly into legislating again isn’t borne out by the facts.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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