Most people are proud of an accomplishment that sets them apart as extraordinary, and for millions of Americans, the idea that they overcame challenges and, with perseverance, achieved something incredibly noteworthy and special is little more than a pipe dream. In some cases, a person, or group is distinguished for unfavorable accomplishments and it is not always the case that the group is embarrassed that they set themselves apart for a record of failure, but that is precisely the circumstance the Republicans in Congress find themselves in as the 112th Congress winds down. One has to wonder why Republicans would spend inordinate amounts of money to win elections to serve as legislators when their intention was doing nothing, but that is the Republicans’ modus operandi since Barack Obama was elected President. Subsequently, Republicans are on pace, and appear pleased, to hold the distinction as the most unproductive Congress since the 1940s, and it looks as if that was their intention all along.
So far during the 112th Congress, Republican obstruction produced only 219 bills President Obama signed into law, and with just two days to go, the GOP and their teabagger caucus will go down in the historical record as worthless obstructionists. One may be tempted to point the finger at both parties for the pathetic record of the 112th Congress, but it is clearly the Republicans who have made governing nearly impossible as two longtime political observers commented on back in April. Left leaning Thomas Mann and conservative Norm Ornstein published an op-ed identifying the GOP as the blame for the dysfunctional Congress and remarked that “We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted, today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.” It is little wonder this Congress’ approval rating hovers around 18 percent.
The Republicans have held meaningless votes such as repealing the Affordable Care Act 30 times, passing the Draconian Heritage Foundation budget with Paul Ryan’s name on it twice, and attempted to legislate the Catholic prohibition on birth control; all bills that had no chance of getting past the Democratically-controlled Senate or President Obama’s veto pen. The travesty with this Congress and the Republican efforts to subvert its ability to govern is that they completely ignored a wealth of bills that would have helped the economy, created jobs, and saved the nation from another GOP recession. One cannot just look at the past year to find unprecedented damage Republicans instigated, because the greatest amount of damage occurred in 2011 and it is a direct reflection on the GOP’s embrace of extremists in their caucus.
It is true Republicans plotted to subvert the economy on Inauguration night in 2009, but the main source of devastation was their dalliance over raising the debt ceiling that led to the nation’s first credit downgrade, a near credit default, and the current “fiscal cliff” they are refusing to act on. Perhaps extremist teabaggers who swept into Congress during the 2010 midterm elections failed to see the gravity of their extremism on the nation’s economy, but it seems just the opposite is true. Last week, a variety of Republicans and teabaggers made insane comments such as “Let’s go over the cliff and see what’s on the other side,” “If we have to endure the pain of the cliff then so be it, and while it may spell the end of the Republican Party, and at least we will force the government to cut and cut deep,” but House Republicans could not even support John Boehner’s severe deep domestic cuts in his absurd Plan B to avoid the fiscal cliff, so their reason is ideologically driven subversion of the United States government.
The House is not the sole cause of inactivity in Congress, or the source of damage to the economy and the people. One of the Republican tactics to stop governance has been the obscene overuse of the filibuster and requirement that 60 votes is needed to get any legislation out of a committee for no other reason than obstructing Democrats and the President. Most notable in just the past year was Senate Republicans who blocked a Veterans jobs bill and the UN treaty on the rights of the disabled. What is worse is that on the rare occasion the Senate does pass legislation, John Boehner refuses to even bring them up for a vote, such as the Farm Bill, Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and prescient to avoiding the fiscal cliff; tax cuts for 98% of taxpayers and 97% of small businesses. Earlier in the year, the Senate passed a bipartisan Transportation Bill creating 3 million jobs that languished on John Boehner’s desk for the simple reason of obstruction regardless the money was already appropriated.
What is pathetic beyond belief is Republicans take pride in bringing governance to a halt and their phony concern for their fabricated fiscal cliff is their latest effort to avoid working with the President or for the American people who elected them govern. At times it seems their only regard is for the wealthiest Americans and protecting them from a minute tax rate increase, but it does not explain the obstruction of jobs bills, Veteran’s benefits, farm bill, or any other legislation regardless of the cost. At one time in America, the United States Congress was the place for compromise to conduct the nation’s business, but Republicans have refused to accomplish anything that may help the people or the economy and their sole reason for going to Washington was to say no; no to compromise, no to governing, and no to progress.
It is troubling that as the 112th Congress comes to an end, Republicans are already plotting their obstruction in the 113th Congress in spite of their dismal record over the past two years. There is no possible way any Republican can claim they are not working diligently to bring the government to a halt whether it is refusing to confirm the President’s appointees or holding the debt ceiling hostage. Many pundits blame the poor leadership skills of House Speaker Boehner, but he has been leading the charge to hold up progress by not even allowing already-passed Senate bills to come up for a vote or discussion. No, Boehner, Cantor, McConnell, and the rest of the Republicans in Congress have made a conscientious effort to bring the government to a halt, first to prevent President Obama from winning a second term, and now to hold the economy hostage again.
It is entirely reasonable that Republicans running on an anti-government agenda are in Congress to eliminate the government’s effectiveness and not solely to punish the poor, middle class, and elderly, although the result of their inaction has harmed millions and millions of Americans who are not members of the wealthy class. There is some hope for the 113th Congress because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is set to stop the Republicans’ ability to demand a super-majority (60 votes) to discuss or pass any piece of legislation, but the House will continue to be a major problem. It must be reiterated though, the 112th Congress inaction is the fault of both parties; Republicans and teabaggers whose only purpose for serving is shrinking the government by starving it of resources necessary to function, and in that context, the Republicans’ inaction is deliberate. One would think that Republicans would be ashamed of their miserable record in the 112th Congress, but when considering their intent is bring the government to a halt, they are most likely congratulating themselves for being the most ineffectual Congress in history.