Six months in, handful of House freshmen haven’t offered a bill

More than six months after being sworn in to office, a handful of Republican freshman lawmakers have yet to introduce a single piece of legislation.

The three House Republicans and one GOP senator were swept into office by a wave of anti-Democrat feelings, part of a freshman class that promised to change Washington.


Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonRemembering Tom Coburn's quiet persistence Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner GOP seeks up to 0 billion to maximize financial help to airlines, other impacted industries MORE (R-Wis.), who defeated then-incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) last fall, has not brought any bills, amendments or resolutions forward for consideration. 

“I didn’t come here just to have my name attached to a piece of legislation,” Johnson said in a statement to The Hill. “I came here to get something done. That’s why I am working with individuals from the chamber that actually passes the types of legislation that I want to see enacted — legislation which will actually help fix the problem — and that’s the House of Representatives.”

The House freshmen whose next congressional bill will be their first are Reps. Andy Harris (R-Md.), Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) and Austin Scott (R-Ga.).

Scott is president of the House GOP freshman class, the largest in decades. 

“We’re in the process of preparing multiple pieces of legislation,” said Cassie Smedile, a spokeswoman for Scott.

Maureen Keith, Meehan’s spokeswoman, said her boss “has been working diligently with colleagues and stakeholders in preparation to drop several important pieces of legislation, including a bill to assist our veterans and an international tax-reform measure to create jobs here at home. The congressman also played a leading role in crafting the Synthetic Drug Control Act, which will ban synthetic drug substitutes currently sold legally in most states.”

Another five GOP freshmen in the House — along with one House Democrat — are not credited with being the main author of any legislation, according to the legislative website Thomas. The members are Reps. Rick Berg (R-N.D.), Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksRepublican group asks 'what is Trump hiding' in Times Square billboard Conservative group hits White House with billboard ads: 'What is Trump hiding?' Trump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race MORE (R-Ala.), Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), Steven McCarty Palazzo (R-Miss.), Martha RobyMartha Dubina RobyThe 14 other key races to watch on Super Tuesday Collins Senate bid sets off game of musical chairs for GOP Global health is the last bastion of bipartisan foreign policy MORE (R-Ala.) and Frederica WilsonFrederica Patricia WilsonHere are the lawmakers who have self-quarantined as a precaution Biden rise calms Democratic jitters Democrats tear into Trump's speech: It was a 'MAGA rally' MORE (D-Fla.). They have, however, issued press releases noting their co-authoring of bills and/or provided information to The Hill indicating they had offered amendments in committee. Thomas credits one lawmaker per bill as its original sponsor. 

Every other House and Senate freshman is recognized as the author of at least one bill, according to Thomas, including symbolic measures such as naming a federal office building, designating a “National Auctioneers Day” (Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo.) or installing a real-time display of the national debt in the House chamber (Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y.). 

Harris, who defeated then-Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-Md.) in 2010, predicted last year that it wouldn’t take long for his party to make its mark. 

“If the Republicans take over Congress, we have a lot of work to do pretty quickly in terms of turning the ship of state back on course, and I certainly understand the legislative process,” Harris said in an Associated Press article from last September. “There will be no learning curve for the legislative process.”

Harris did not comment for this article.

Soon after she won her seat last year, Wilson cited her experience in passing bills.

“You run on your record — you don’t run on what you’re going to be,” Wilson told the St. Petersburg Times in November. “I am a person who was able to walk into a legislature that was dominated by Republicans and get more bills passed than some Republicans.”

Wilson spokesman Mahen Gunaratna said Wilson was planning on introducing a jobs bill in the near future. 

In an interview, Wilson said she had been working on legislation — including a bill that would ban texting while driving in all 50 states — since the beginning of her term. She said the bills did not yet have numbers assigned to them because she had been spending a lot of time “go[ing] back and forth with bill drafting.” 

DesJarlais introduced a bill with Rep. Chuck FleischmannCharles (Chuck) Joseph FleischmannGOP Congressman calls for more testing for coronavirus, shutting down Southern border House Republican: Coronavirus shows we need to be more 'domestically independent' on pharmaceuticals Lobbying world MORE (R-Tenn.) that would block a proposed effort by the Federal Highway Administration to update and replace road signs. DesJarlais and Fleischmann cite a Tennessee County Highway Officials Association estimate that the FHA mandate would cost local governments $50 million. 

“I understand Thomas only shows one author of a bill, but he did introduce the bill,” DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson said.

James Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, cited freshman members’ lack of experience, and, in the case of Tea Party-affiliated members, ideology that would discourage them from introducing measures that would extend the scope of government.

“They don’t have pent-up ideas that other members might have,” Thurber added. “It takes a little while for them to mature and learn how to do it.”

But others note that introducing a bill is not complicated. A general proposal can be fleshed out in the legislative counsel’s office, a service that is available to all members of Congress. 

Other freshmen have introduced legislation on a variety of issues, ranging from slashing funds for individual federal programs to limiting the powers of regulatory agencies and creating programs for veterans. On average, each freshman member has introduced about six measures in 2011.

Rep. Michael Grimm (N.Y.) has been the most prolific House GOP freshman, with 14 bills, resolutions and amendments.

In the upper chamber, Tea Party Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulFlorida Republican becomes sixth member of Congress to test positive for coronavirus Zoom, grocery delivery, self-isolation: How lawmakers are surviving coronavirus Rand Paul volunteering at hospital after negative coronavirus test MORE (R-Ky.) has introduced 65 measures, most of which are aimed at cutting federal spending and examining the power of regulatory agencies.

Introducing legislation is considered to be one of the primary responsibilities of a lawmaker. Some members will introduce a lot of bills that never move through committees, while others might produce only a few measures that attract co-sponsors and are eventually brought to the floor for a vote.

Meanwhile, Johnson, another Tea Party favorite, said, “I have spent a fair amount of time working with House members, in particular on the Cut, Cap, and Balance legislation that I hope will pass the House. It will actually cut spending, cap it over a period of years to lead to a balanced budget and lift the debt ceiling — contingent on us passing a constitutional amendment to limit spending and balance the budget.”

Brooks spokeswoman Skyla Freeman said the congressman had “already drafted and [would] introduce his first bill within the next two weeks.”

Berg, who is running for Senate, cited his work on a jobs bill offered by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.).

“He also introduced language into the [Federal Aviation Administration] reauthorization bill that would further the growth of unmanned aerial systems technology,” Berg spokeswoman Alee Lockman said.

Palazzo spokesman Hunter Lipscomb said Palazzo’s No. 1 priority was “providing top-notch constituent services to his district,” citing the lawmaker’s work on the future of NASA space flight.

Roby's office did not comment.