There are a couple of terms used to describe members of Congress, according to the folklore of D.C. There are the showhorses, and there are the workhorses.
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada is a showhorse.
Since he was elected to the House in 2007 and appointed to the Senate in 2011, one can search the federal statutes without success looking for his legacy. The Heller Act? You’ll look long and hard trying to find it. On the other hand, he has been pretty good about getting his name out there in lights.
One of his favorite measures is what he calls the “No Budget, No Pay Act.” The measure requires members of the House and Senate to complete work on a budget before the beginning of the fiscal year or lose their salaries until the work is completed.
“Why should members of Congress get paid for not doing their job?” he said in a prepared statement last year. “That’s easy, they shouldn’t. That’s why the No Budget, No Pay legislation ensures if Congress fails to pass a budget, it won’t get paid. This is a basic responsibility that must not be shirked any longer. … When Nevadans are trying to make the most and best use of their hard-earned dollars, Washington needs to do the same by passing a basic budget.”
However, when it came time to vote on such a measure, Heller voted nay (Roll Call 223, H R 1255, April 1, 2011 http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2011/roll223.xml).
Four years ago, columnist Jon Ralston wrote, “As election-year stunts go, it’s not enough to call this one empty because that would imply it’s harmless. It’s not. That’s because it is not designed to fix or ameliorate but to bring the barbarians to the gates while Heller, hiding inside his Trojan Horse of an ’idea,’ pretends to be in D.C. but not of D.C. … On its face, the idea that docking their pay would make members of Congress more responsive is laughable. Does Heller not know that almost half are millionaires and that the other half probably will come close during their terms? Of course he does.”
Heller keeps reintroducing his bill, which is what he is good at—introducing bills. Enacting them? Not so much.
But what made us bring this up again is that, recently, there has been an opportunity for Heller to bring his idea to bear on another undone task besides the budget, and he has been as silent as the dead about it.
His own party’s leaders went on strike when it came to doing their duty in processing the new U.S. Supreme court nomination of Merrick Garland.
This is the same Merrick Garland who was approved by most Senate Republicans to become a U.S. Court of Appeals judge in 1997.
Heller claims he supports the process: “I’ve been clear that I believe the American people deserve the opportunity to have their voice heard in selecting the next Supreme Court justice. When the people make that choice, I’m ready to proceed.”
Well, the public chose the president twice, and he has now nominated a justice. When is Heller going to re-introduce his bill to include supreme court nominations among duties senators must perform to get paid? He says he believes the process should go forward, and he now has the chance to embarrass his own party’s leaders into doing their jobs. It’s his move. How’s that for bipartisan?