Josh Hawley introduces another bill that won’t pass. He should work on Missouri’s problems first

J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press file photo

This week Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri introduced a bill allowing states to enforce federal immigration law. “My bill would finally give states the ability to … deport illegal immigrants,” his statement said.

The Constitution gives the federal government exclusive authority over immigration, something the Supreme Court reaffirmed in 2012 when it rejected Arizona’s attempt to enforce immigration laws. Hawley’s bill specifically abrogates that decision by seeking to delegate the power to deport unauthorized immigrants to states everywhere.

It’s a bad idea, and one we’d normally be concerned about, given that it would empower the local sheriff to start rounding up suspected undocumented workers. But then again, Hawley didn’t introduce the bill in hopes that it’d pass. His bills almost never do. Like virtually every bill Hawley offers, this one is headed to the dustbin of history, good for an appearance or two on Fox News but not for anything else.

Let’s look at the record. According to Congress.gov, Hawley has introduced 43 original bills in the last two years. Some have colorful names: the Make the Universities Pay Act, the Love America Act of 2021, the Bust Up Big Tech Act. Most address the Hawley pet peeve of the moment.

How many of these stand-alone measures ended up on the president’s desk? None. Zero. In fact only one of Hawley’s 43 bills in this Congress -- a proposal on the origins of COVID -- even passed the Senate, let alone the House.

The previous Congress? Hawley proposed 40 bills, a little less than two a month. Just one bill, expanding counseling services for law enforcement officers, became law. And that was with a Republican Senate and a Republican in the White House.

In his Senate career, Hawley is 1 for 83. Not exactly an Albert Pujols-like average.

As always, we want to be fair. Our numbers don’t include stray Hawley language that may have ended up in someone else’s bill by amendment. That happens sometimes.

And it’s pretty hard to enact legislation, largely because the Senate is the place where legislation catches the filibuster disease and ends up dead. This year, for example, senators have offered 1,350 bills through the end of August. Of those, just 44 are now public laws.

In the 116th Congress, senators introduced more than 5,000 measures. Roughly 13% became law.

Yet legislation does get passed, even by Republicans in a Senate run by Democrats. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas has introduced 39 measures in this Congress; 12 have made it to a committee and two are now law.

(His Kansas colleague, Sen. Roger Marshall, has a worse record than Hawley -- he’s proposed 52 bills in this Congress; none have even made it to the Senate floor.)

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican, has offered 185 measures in the current session of Congress. Three bills, including a much-amended and important measure on gun violence, were signed by President Joe Biden.

Iowa’s Sen. Chuck Grassley sponsored three bills this session that are now law.

Congress isn’t a competition, and senators should not be judged solely on their record for introducing bills that pass. But it’s fair to ask senators to spend most of their time on work that actually benefits their constituents, and their state. Hawley repeatedly fails that standard.

In 2019 there were roughly 50,000 undocumented persons in Missouri, about one for every 120 residents. In New York state, there’s an undocumented worker for every 24 residents. By any measure, undocumented workers are a bigger challenge in New York (and Texas and California) than in Missouri.

That hasn’t stopped Hawley, whose latest bill will be scrap paper soon enough.

Introducing bills that grab headlines, sell books, and keep your contact card in the bookers’ Rolodex is more important to the junior senator than improving lives in Missouri. That’s unfortunate, and voters should remember it.