CAPITOL HILL — The 113th Congress has been the least productive in history, with the House and Senate passing only 57 bills that were signed into law by President Barack Obama. Analysts say that even in the context of a divided government, with a Democrat in the White House, a Democratic-controlled Senate and a Republican-led House of Representatives, performance has been dismal. Most analysts do not expect a dramatic change next year, as lawmakers look to midterm elections coming in November.
Immigration reform passed in the Senate, but was not even taken up in the House of Representatives. This prompted some activists to fast for days or even weeks to get lawmakers to pay attention.
Majority Republicans set the agenda in the House, where a lot of time was spent passing legislation to repeal or delay President Obama’s health care law. Budget analyst Stan Collender thinks present patterns of behavior are likely to continue.
“They voted to repeal Obamacare 37 times, knowing full well that not one of them was going to get through. What actually… [got done] at the end of the day is very, very little. It was totally predictable, and almost certainly will continue in the absence of some sort of major crisis.”
Republican opposition to ObamaCare led to a government shutdown for two weeks in October, with conservative advocacy groups leading the charge.
Two months later, House Speaker John Boehner criticized some fellow Republicans, saying they pushed the party into a futile budget standoff.
“The day before the government reopened, one of the people at one of the groups stood up and said, ‘well, we never thought it would work.’ Are you kidding me?” said Boehner.
Stuart Rothenberg, who follows Congress for his political report, thinks the entirety of Congress is to blame.
“Republicans, Democrats, Independents all think Congress has failed, that they haven’t addressed the nation’s toughest problems, that they’ve been bickering, that it’s all about politics. Each side points the finger at the other so there’s no doubt about that. Congress as an institution is now held in as low a regard as I’ve ever seen,” said Rothenberg.
Veteran Republican Senator John McCain agrees.
“The American people, very appropriately, have very little regard for us. It is down now to some nine percent. And when you know that low number, you have to got to remember in the nineties, in the eighties, general approval rating was in the sixtieth percentile, it wasn’t always like this,” said McCain.
Senator McCain reports that the current atmosphere in Congress is as poisoned as he can remember in his 30 years on Capitol Hill. He says lawmakers should remember that one can compromise to get laws passed without compromising one’s principles.