As the New York Times has reported, impeachment is “threatening to overshadow House Democrats’ attempt to show that they can govern.” No kidding. As the House voted along party lines to formalize the impeachment inquiry last week, that process appears to be starting to compromise Congress’ ability to legislate on even previously bipartisan issues. That is both predictable and consistent with what happened the last time Congress took steps to impeach a president in 1998: little lawmaking got done.
House Democrats have tried to impeach and legislate at the same time with little success. For example, several key committees recently advanced legislation designed to reduce prescription drug prices, an important and bipartisan goal. But when the Ways and Means Committee considered the “Lower Drug Costs Now Act,” Kevin Brady (R-TX), a former Committee chairman with a talent for counting votes, noted the bill “stands no chance of becoming law” because the Republican-held Senate will dismiss the Democrat-crafted bill that he argues will result in fewer cures and treatments, harming Americans afflicted with ALS, Alzheimer’s, cancer and many other diseases. That was underscored by the committee vote: all Democrats (except Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), who voted present) supported the bill and all Republicans opposed it. Expect the same on the House floor.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Both Republicans (including President Trump) and Democrats support legislation designed to reduce prescription drug prices. Trump even had kind words for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) drug plan when it was first introduced. But as Republicans noted during committee debate, prior bipartisan work on drug prices was set aside when the committee opted for a Democrat-only approach.