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Monday, October 24, 2016

Members of Congress returned to Capitol Hill after their August recess on Monday, and if they want to avoid being the least productive Congress in modern history, they have their work cut out for them. According to, this Congress has enacted only 163 laws (including both bills and joint resolutions that have been enacted into law). That leaves it 121 laws behind the 112th Congress, which is currently the do-nothingest in modern congressional history.

Washington Post chart

As this chart from The Washington Post shows, it is common practice for as much as 50 percent of laws enacted by Congress to come in the last quarter of the session. But even taking Congress’ tendency to procrastinate into account, the 113th Congress will have to cover a lot of ground in the next few weeks if it wants to enact more laws than its predecessor. This is because of November’s elections: According to the Associated Press, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) plans to adjourn the Senate by September 23 to allow members to campaign.

The most pressing issue is keeping the government funded. Legislators will need to come up with a short-term spending bill to fund the government through the end of 2014, and they will need to do so by September 30. With negotiations over the budget absorbing so much time and focus in the coming weeks, the question will be whether Congress can accomplish much else before being adjourned until after the elections.

If its track record is any indication, then the answer looks grim. While the number of laws that a Congress enacts is not the only way to judge its productivity, even small-government conservatives will find this dearth of legislation to be a problem, since it does take a law to repeal a law.

Even when Congress has been able to pass legislation, like The Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Veterans Access Choice and Accountability Act (which reformed the VA), it has sunk back into inefficiency by following it up with partisan bills that stand little chance of becoming law. On the day before the August recess, for example, the House passed bills authorizing a lawsuit against President Obama and curtailing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — neither of which the Democratic-controlled Senate will seriously consider.

If this Congress really wants to improve its productivity, its members will need to compromise and pass bills that are not solely designed to position themselves favorably for re-election.

AFP Photo/Jewel Samad

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  • eps62

    Never gonna happen, they will fight Obama to their bitter end.

  • Dominick Vila

    With the exception of naming a few government buildings and bridges, and repeated efforts to undermine the effectiveness of the ACA, the 113th Congress will be remembered only for their ability to do absolutely nothing…and the constituents of some of these ideologues are delighted by their lack of productivity since the goal was to ensure the economy remained flat and job growth was negligible to improve their chances in November. In plain English, they sacrificed the well being of millions of Americans to score political points.

    • Independent1

      Dominick, fortunately, the only place their tactics have succeeded is in the figment of their own imaginations. Despite all their efforts to dumb down our economy, a recent article in Forbes demonstrates that Obama has been the best ‘economic’ modern day president – outpacing Reagan with respect to virtually every measure. I think as you’ve pointed out in the past, the fact that Obama has been able to accomplish this in the face of such total obstructionism from the GOP – makes this accomplishment even more amazing.

      And as WE KNOW, their efforts haven’t prevented more than 54 straight months of jobs growth with more jobs created in the past 5 years than were created in all of Bush Jr’s 8 years in office.

      Some of that is covered in this Forbes article that can be accessed via the Dailykos article from which I’ve taken an excerpt:

      Economically, President Obama’s administration has outperformed President Reagan’s in all commonly watched categories. Simultaneously the current administration has reduced the deficit, which skyrocketed under Reagan. Additionally, Obama has reduced federal employment, which grew under Reagan (especially when including military personnel,) and truly delivered a “smaller government.” Additionally, the current administration has kept inflation low, even during extreme international upheaval, failure of foreign economies (Greece) and a dramatic slowdown in the European economy.

    • Independent1

      Another article you and some of the other posters here may find of interest is one on the critics of Ben Bernanke’s handling of the Fed during our recovery from the great recession. Bernanke expresses something I’ve always thought, that the Great Recession was an even bigger financial disaster than what America went through during the Great Depression in the 30s.

      Here is an excerpt from this article along with a link to it:

      The $1 trillion reason why Bernanke’s critics were wrong

      The Ben Bernanke victory tour rolls on.

      According to a document filed Aug. 22 with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Bernanke said “September and October of 2008 was the worst financial crisis in global history, including the Great Depression.”

      Last week, NYT columnist Paul Krugman penned an ode to his former Princeton colleague. “And there but for the grace of Bernanke go we,” Krugman wrote, reflecting on Europe’s economic morass.

  • FireBaron

    Kind of hard for this Congress to be productive when all the House keeps doing is passing bills calling for the abolition of the ACA and all Mitch McConnell keeps doing is offering filibusters on must-pass legislation and appointments.

  • booker25

    The republican held house is do nothing by choice.

  • docb

    Yes, the little tbag cretins of 2010 have screwed the nation and themselves..Detested do nothings!

  • idamag


  • charleo1

    Who knew this Country was so divided? Not me. Sure, the politics became a little nastier after the election of Bill Clinton. The GOP rallied, gained control of Congress, and it all looked like politics as usual. The Country prospered, and so did most of the World. The rich got richer, as they always had. The poor got by. Everybody said taxes were too high, welfare was a leaky bucket. But most understood the purpose of both. Government functioned, and that was seen as a good thing. Radicalism, and extremists, and anti-government malcontents were mostly viewed as nut jobs, probably headed for jail, and certainly not the halls of Congress. Who knew this Country was so divided? Not me. I guess I might have gotten a hint, when the 2000 Presidential Election was too close to call using the usual method of counting votes. So the Supreme Court made the call. Is that right? I thought the House of Representatives? I’m no scholar, so fine, Bush it is then. Who knew this Son of a former President, who’s Father was prudence personified. That under that rather clownish, and inarticulate, veneer, lay a flaming ideological radical? Who knew this Country would soon be so united behind this new President? I hadn’t heard of the Neocons, the billionaire Koch Brothers, the John Birch Society, or the pledge all the Republicans had been signing to a guy named Grover Norquist. The head of a giant, anti-tax, corporate lobby conglomerate. That would all come to my attention much later. After the Bush wars, all fought on borrowed money. After the economy nearly collapsed after a huge real estate scheme went bust. After the election of Barack Obama. When the anti-government, anti-everything, zealots were loosed on the American political landscape. Brought to the forefront, by a Conservative Party disgraced by failure. A Party that seemed to me to be trying to regain power by creating the same kind of dysfunction in the Government, and across the Country, that they themselves were dealing with, after Bush. Bush. The President they, and a Court they had mostly appointed, had foisted on the Country. Bush the Dupe. The Dunce. The one they mistakenly thought they could control, and perhaps did. And, turned out to be a nightmare, bigger than than anyone could have imagined. After all of the struggles, and carnage of the first half of the 20th century, fate had finally brought us to the bright promise, and progress of that last decade. Who knew we would be this divided, just a few short years later? Not me. Who knew some would seem to be questioning the very Americanism of their fellow Countrymen, for believing in, and desiring to have, a functioning government? And not one depicted as a, “beast,” needing to be, “starved.” Made small enough to be drown in a bathtub, then drowned. What kind of an American talks like that? Well, Grover Norquist talks like that. Will he be our next de facto President? Perhaps. And perhaps, we’ll decide we need a teeny tiny little government in Washington. And each State will be granted the Right to write it’s own Constitution, and their own laws, that supersedes the original. And corporate power will replace the now dysfunctional, and superfluous government in Washington. Being purposefully discredited, and roundly criticized by many factions of our body politic. Who knew that would be what many Americans would decide must be done with the Country? Not me.

    • dtgraham

      “After all of the struggles, and carnage of the first half of the 20th century, fate had finally brought us to the bright promise, and promise of that last decade.”

      Yes it did charleo—and profoundly put my friend. All of the progressive changes of FDR in the 1930’s lasted until well into the 1950’s (look up Eisenhower quotes), and did finally bring America to that bright promise of even more progressive change in the 1960’s and beyond. JFK spoke of it in his famous Madison Square Garden speech in 1962 on his “new generation of American’s” upcoming proposals on Medicare, Medicaid, and some kind of universal health care for everyone else. You can easily find it all on-line.

      The thing about progressive change is that it requires a certain continuous length of time for it to be permanently implanted onto a nation’s political culture and psyche, such that everyone buys in…even conservatives. Most of the progressive attitude and policy changes of the 1960’s were never given the gift of longevity necessary for that to occur. They were all killed off (literally) before that could happen.