Similar to overpaid NFL “star” Jay Cutler’s reign of terror as the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears, the best thing we can say about the 113th session of Congress is that it’s over. Setting a new standard for lethargic mediocrity, the body, which formally adjourned this week, passed just 200 bills over the last two years. By comparison, the 80th session of 1947-1948, affectionately referred to as the “Do-Nothing Congress,” shepherded a whopping 900 pieces of legislation. Harry Truman’s clever branding of Washington’s stuffed shirts was accurate at the time, but seems quaintly innocent from the vantage point of late 2014.
In an Associated Press piece entitled, 113th Congress Ends With More Fights Than Feats, writer Alan Fram observes (somewhat poetically), “The tempestuous 113th Congress has limped out of Washington for the last time, capping two years of modest and infrequent legislating that was overshadowed by partisan clashes, gridlock and investigations.” Limp is right. What little paperwork did make it to the President’s desk did nothing to address the nation’s broken immigration system, declining infrastructure, archaic and biased tax code, unlivable minimum wage and a host of other dire issues rendering America less functional.
Of course, despite maintaining a despotic stranglehold on the House of Representatives, none of this should be blamed on the GOP. Just ask them:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: “How many times did we have the point of the week?… It was designed to make us walk the plank. It had nothing to do with getting a legislative outcome.”
Michael Steel, spokesman for House Majority Leader John Boehner: Republicans passed “jobs bill after jobs bill…But Washington Democrats — including President Obama and Senate Democratic leaders — have utterly failed to act.”
Moira Bagley Smith, spokeswoman for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise: “Considering the Senate is sitting on over 350 pieces of House-passed legislation from this Congress, I believe Senator Reid’s chamber single-handedly has earned the title of ‘least productive…’The contrast in productivity between these two chambers couldn’t be more obvious.”
Examples of these “350 pieces of House-passed legislation” include more than 50 votes designed to kill or weaken the now clearly successful Affordable Care Act. And if you can’t recall the reported avalanche of awesome Republican jobs bills, you are not alone. Meanwhile in the Democratic-led Senate, legislation designed to raise the federal minimum wage, create equal pay for women, improve the student loan morass and extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, proved DOA in the House.
So goodbye and good riddance 113th Congress, with your 15 percent approval rating. Better luck next year. Oh wait.
Per writer Aileen Graef of UPI, “When the 114th Congress enters its first session in January, it will be controlled by the Republican party which has already vowed to fight the White House on contentious issues including healthcare and immigration. With President Obama waiting to meet the new Congress ready to veto, it spells a grim future for productivity and approval ratings.”
As I suggested shortly after the November midterm elections, frustrated voters who thought they were sending President Obama and the Democrats a message at the ballot box (“Do something!”) were speaking to the wrong party. There’s no reason to believe that the 114th session will be any more productive than the last. Stonewalling has proven a GOP ballot box-winning strategy. Nothing will change until we demand it, and stop rewarding sandbaggers with additional terms in office.