Substance or Fluff—What Are Beto O’Rourke’s Legislative Accomplishments?

—November 2, 2018

Campus Reform, a Right-leaning news organization that focuses on college-related news, sent a reporter to Texas A&M University to determine student-body voter sentiment about what is perhaps the most talked-about Senate election race of the fast-approaching midterms—that is the Texas Senate election between incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz and his Democratic candidate counterpart, Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke. While the fact that most students interviewed expressed support for Beto over Cruz was not surprising, of interest was the fact that none of the students could name a single accomplishment achieved by the three-term congressman. One student, obviously lacking any sense of irony, suggested that Beto “resonates with young people because we are more aware.”

Hundreds of pundits have already weighed in on Beto, with commentary on the Right generally positing that the “remarkably unremarkable” Beto has never “offered any substantively impressive policy ideas,” nor “led on any notable issues in the House,” while commentary from the Left argues that Beto delivers “substance,” far beyond the “calculatingly cool” charisma that his detractors claim is all he offers.

So, substance or fluff, which is it? Perhaps we should turn to the historic record to determine what, exactly, Beto has accomplished as a legislator. If nothing else, Beto has proven to be an accomplished fundraiser, having raised the most money—more than $38 million—in one quarter of any Senate candidate in history, and on track to raising the most money ever in a Senate campaign.

All that money—more than $60 million and rising—has presumably been donated in support of Beto’s official platform and what he’s said on the campaign trail, because his official legislative record certainly does not lend itself to that level of support. Not that Beto doesn’t take his Congressional job seriously, but his legislative record just doesn’t seem all that impressive. During his almost three terms in office he has sponsored 75 bills and co-sponsored 1,034. Of these only one of his own bills has passed into law, while only 44 of the bills he co-sponsored are now law. Thus, if his own legislation serves as a barometer of success, the pinnacle of his Congressional career is marked by the 114th Congress’s H.R. 5873, which “designate[s] the Federal building and United States courthouse located at 511 East San Antonio Avenue in El Paso, Texas, as the ‘R.E. Thomason Federal Building and United States Courthouse.’”

As for co-sponsored legislation, perhaps the most impressive bills he supported that became law included one which prohibits the manufacturing or importing of multi-line telephone systems that aren’t preconfigured for direct 9-1-1- calls—H.R.582—and a provision which improves U.S. Veteran’s Administration mental health services for veterans—H.R.203. Speaking of veterans, Beto deserves credit for his legislative efforts on their behalf, given that two-thirds of the passed-into-law cosponsored legislation involves veteran’s issues, while more than one-third of his own legislation is designed to support veterans.

Perhaps Beto’s lack of legislative success can’t be held against him given that Republicans have held control of the House of Representatives during his terms of office. Nevertheless, it still calls into question why he receives so much support, financial and otherwise. Part of it is undoubtedly inspired by the Left’s desire to unseat Ted Cruz at all costs. Beto also has that charisma—“Kennedyesque,” as described by many in the media—that Democrats tend to revere in their candidates. Beto’s charisma is such that there is even speculation regarding a future run for the White House by Beto, including talk that he could play a role in the 2020 election if he loses in the midterms.

Beto’s lack of legislative accomplishment reminds us of another charismatic politician who rode into the White House despite a distinct lack of such. But at least three of the four pieces of successful legislation bearing then-Sen. Barak Obama’s name as primary sponsor were a bit more substantial than re-naming a federal building.

—Originally published in Discernible Truth

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