With the 113th Congress recently sworn in I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the previous Congress and how they performed. Or to put it more accurately, how they didn't. Unsurprisingly, the 112th Congress (2011-2012) set new records in ineptitude.
For a little historical perspective, during the 1948 election President Harry Truman ran against what he called a "Do Nothing Congress." That delegation, the 80th Congress (1947-1948) passed a total of 906 pieces of legislation. The 112th totally blew those lazy bums out of the water by passing a paltry 219 pieces of legislation. But if you drive down even further into those numbers, it's actually even worse.
Of the 219 bills passed, 40 involved the renaming of government building like post offices. Another 33 were laws trying to repeal Obama care which besides being bad policy, would neither have survived the majority Democrat Senate nor Presidential veto. Obviously the President wasn't going to get rid of the signature piece of legislation that (at least informally) bears his name. 8 more bills tried to restrict women's access to abortion. 6 dealt with commemorative coins. And finally, another two laws amounted to nothing more than a political hit job. Yes, the 112th Congress voted twice to hold Eric Holder the U.S Attorney General for contempt.
Remember when the tea-party wave of Republicans got swept into office on the promise of jobs, jobs, jobs? Well, almost half of the bills they actually passed were either utter wastes of time like the Obamacare repeal, or were of so little import like legislation dealing with coins or post office names, that they barely should be called laws at all. Throw in getting the nation's credit rating downgraded back in 2011, not reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act and you wonder how their final job approval rating was even as high as 5%, which according to my totally unscientific estimates ranks somewhere between the popular approval rating of serial killers and the Verizon customer service lines. The most unfortunate thing about that approval rating is that the media and then public at large seems to apportion blame equally to both Republicans and Democrats alike. It's the pox on both their houses meme that gets forwarded whenever Congress can't get it's act together to behave as a governing body. That couldn't be further from the truth.
As I've been saying for what feels like forever, it's the GOP that are the real culprits here. Last spring Thomas Mann of the left-leaning Brookings Institution and Norm Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute published an op-ed in the Washington Post saying as much.
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.I'm glad a few other people are seeing the bigger picture. Not that it should have been difficult with GOP Senate Minority Leader saying his number one goal was to make Obama a one term Presidentand another top Republican saying that if they could just stop health care reform, it would basically destroy his presidency. Who cares about serving the public good when you can simply execute a vendetta against the President? One wonders how the same media can breathlessly report stories like that can also bemoan government dysfunction and lack of bi-partisanship. But I digress.
Ladies and gentlemen I present to you the 112th Congressional delegation. Quite possibly the worst Congress in history. Years from now historians will write about how inept this group of men and women were. In decades to come our grand children will complain about their Congresses. But we'll correct them by telling them stories from the bad old days of the 112th.