Republicans may be trying to focus their messaging on jobs and the economy — and hammering President Barack Obama for campaigning — but they still have time for some red meat base-baiting on the House floor.
To wit: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (Va.) decision to bring to the floor a measure that “reaffirms ‘In God We Trust’ as the official motto of the United States and supports and encourages the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions,” according to the resolution, sponsored by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.).
The resolution is one of three measures being considered by the House on Tuesday and is nonbinding.
Cantor’s office declined to comment for this story.
Democrats ridiculed the decision to bring up the measure.
“The last time we checked, ‘In God We Trust’ is the national motto of the United States, adopted in 1956, and China was still getting off scot-free while Republican House leaders refuse to bring up a bipartisan bill to level the playing field for American workers,” said Nadeam Elshami, spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).
“How hard is it for the Republican leadership to reaffirm its commitment to the middle class by allowing a vote on the bipartisan China currency legislation that will create more than 1 million jobs? Apparently, they’re just too busy,” Elshami added.
In a statement, Forbes defended bringing the bill to the floor, arguing that Congress needs to directly confront “a disturbing trend of inaccuracies and omissions, misunderstandings of church and state, rogue court challenges, and efforts to remove God from the public domain by unelected bureaucrats.”
Forbes points to a number of instances that are driving the need for the bill, including Obama referring to E Pluribus Unum as “our” motto and omission of the motto from parts of the Capitol Visitor Center, among others.
“As our nation faces challenging times, it is appropriate for Members of Congress and our nation — like our predecessors — to firmly declare our trust in God, believing that it will sustain us for generations to come,” he added.
Forbes’ bill is not the first time House Republicans have strayed from a strict jobs, economy and spending schedule.
Last month, for example, the House took up an abortion restriction bill. Democrats have criticized this and other efforts, including a vote to do away with the nation’s move to fluorescent light bulbs, as being little more than political measures aimed at the GOP base.
But for the most part, even those sorts of measures have had a jobs or spending connection, regardless of how tangential. The abortion bill would have restricted federal funding for abortions. The light bulb measure was cast as a jobs proposal on the grounds that it could reduce costs to small business.
But there is no connection between the In God We Trust resolution and the GOP’s jobs and economy agenda.
It can even be argued that the resolution, when considering Congressional overhead, will cost taxpayers. According to a June Congressional Research Service report, when the House is in session it costs the public $53,534 per day — or $8,360 per hour — in House floor costs. But, as CRS notes, that estimate is extremely conservative, because it does not include “leadership and member salaries, member and committee staff salaries, staff employment benefits, utilities, Architect of the Capitol support staff, and costs associated with the media galleries,” which CRS calls “substantial.”
With a base salary for lawmakers of $174,000 and slightly higher pay for Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), Cantor and Pelosi, the public spends more than $77 million every year on Congressional salaries. If the House stays on schedule to be in session a total of 128 days this year, taxpayers spend roughly $592,000 per legislative day on Members’ salaries.
With three items scheduled to be voted on Tuesday, the total cost of just Members’ salaries and CRS’ estimated floor operating costs means the resolution will cost at least $215,183.
Cantor and other top Republican leaders have repeatedly criticized Obama and Senate Democrats for not taking more steps to address the economy and have spent significant time pursuing their jobs agenda.
Cantor has held weekly votes on deregulatory bills, and Republicans have had significant successes in making federal spending a top issue.
Cantor and Boehner have also placed new emphasis on moving legislation they believe can make it past the Senate and become law — including last week’s tax withholding bill and this week’s package of capital formation bills.
Also, Cantor has made jobs a personal mantra, hanging placards around his office that say “Are my efforts addressing job creation and the economy; are they reducing spending; and are they shrinking the size of the Federal Government while increasing and protecting liberty? If not, why am I doing it? Why are WE doing it?”