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113th Congress: Worst than infamous “Do Nothing Congress”

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Congress heads home with dubious distinction: Far fewer laws than infamous “Do Nothing Congress.”

Colonel Paul Cook (retired), 113th Congress

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— Days before adjournment and the year-end holiday recess, Sen. Lindsey Graham was hardly feeling the holiday spirit.

As usual, the Senate was limping through a slow legislative slog: passing a small-scale bipartisan budget agreement that averts another federal government shutdown and softens the blow of sequestration, meandering through a defense authorization bill and trudging through a slew of judicial and administrative nominations.

“The new good government standard is we didn’t shut the government down. We’re slapping ourselves on the back for not shutting the government down,” groused Graham, a South Carolina Republican. “Even when we try to be functional, we’re dysfunctional.”

When they wrap up their business this week, senators will join members of the House of Representatives in returning to their districts with a dubious achievement they’ll not likely brag about to their constituents: being part of one of the least productive Congresses ever.

The 113th Congress is heading home and into the history books with a record of legislative futility. By the time the Senate finishes its business, this Congress will have passed slightly more than 57 bills into law. It’s on course to surpass the first session of 104th Congress, which passed 88 bills into law, in terms of its low productivity.

Critics say the current Congress makes the 80th Congress – dismissively dubbed by President Harry S Truman as the “Do Nothing Congress” – look like workaholics. That Congress enacted 395 public bills into law by the end of its first session, in December 1947, according to congressional records.

“By all objective measures, this is the worst Congress ever,” Tom Mann, a senior governance fellow at Washington’s Brookings Institution, said of the 113th. “But there are two main things: Important matters not addressed and destructive things done, like October’s government shutdown. They did a lot of stuff of no consequence. All the important stuff, they couldn’t get done.”

The 113th Congress didn’t pass a single appropriations bill, a farm bill, immigration legislation, anything to change or improve health care or anything thing to curb the debt.

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This isn’t to say that the 113th hasn’t done anything. The budget deal, approving a $50 billion aid package for states battered by Superstorm Sandy, reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, passing legislation to keep the nation’s helium reserves open, and setting new rate structures for federal student loans, were among some of the first session’s major accomplishments.

But Legislation Lite also ruled: Lawmakers agreed to name a Mississippi bridge after St. Louis Cardinals slugger Stan Musial, rename a subsection of the tax code after former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and name a veterans affairs medical center after the late Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla.

Mistrust and acrimony also gummed up the works. Frustrated by what he considered deliberate Republican blockage of President Barack Obama’s judicial and administrative nominees, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., changed the Senate rules, effectively eliminating the use of the filibuster for all but Supreme Court picks.

“There’s a reservoir of ill will the likes of which I’ve never seen in my years in the United States Senate,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Unable to achieve bipartisan consensus on big issues, the 113th Congress displayed a penchant for delaying action until the last minute or, in the case of October’s 16-day partial government shutdown, after it’s too late.

The short-term funding deal that reopened the government yielded a bipartisan House-Senate committee that produced a modest budget to keep the government operating through fiscal 2015.

While congratulating themselves for avoiding another shutdown fight with the deal crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., lawmakers passed on dealing with the debt ceiling, potentially setting up another high-stakes fiscal fight in February or March.

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  1. Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

    Paul Cook’s opponent in the general election in 2012 was another republican and a weak one at that. Reviewing Cooks voting record over the last year he is very big bro friendly and an enemy to the private citizens. I do not know if it is his personal desires and vision for our nation or he may just be towing the party’s wishes trying to get another step up on the ladder. He give the appearance that he has abandoned his constituents in favor of the DC elites
    If we the citizens (corrected from people to citizens you know we have to eliminate the illegals) toe the line and do our due diligence the info to make smart choices this cycle is just a click away. Let us fire all that failed from the small cities to the congressmen who have been blinded by the desire to advance their standings by extracting the wealth of the citizens.

    Here is a link for Cooks voting record; friends do not let friends stay unenlightened: http://votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/58121/paul-cook#.UrsnU_RDtef

    • Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

      You know Mark I love you like a brother.... but sometimes you have no idea of what you speak..... Imus was not just another Republican he was a libertarian and did not fill the mold of the GOP Party establishment... He won the Primary with a huge margin and was only defeated with Charles Munger money poured into the Cook Campaign by the Millions.... It was Left-Wing Rockefeller Republican Establishment money and the dirty tricks it could buy that defeated him not his politics.... Please get that straight.

  2. Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

    One more observation...... There is NOTHING and I mean NOTHING wrong with a do nothing Congress. The fact of the matter, I believe we have had FAR TOO MANY "Do Too Much" Congresses.

    We could do with a century more of DO NOTHING Congresses if you ask me.

    One must reject wholesale the temptation to think that Government has the answers. It does not have all the answers and is often the cause of all sorts of unintended consequences.

    I rejoice with the thought that this last few years have been if just a bit less hampered with useless and obtrusive laws and edicts from a DO NOTHING CONGRESS.

    • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

      All is good, but he may have made a better candidate if he would have passed on the shiny crap like ” I am better than most I go to the border and pretend I am an ICE agent” now that was weak and in my mind stupid in a district as heavily Latino populated as the eighth
      Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.

      PS I suggest like many others, limit the time congress can be in session to 3 weeks no pensions no benefits, just room and board along with say $3,000 for travel, oh and might as well go back to the day when senators were appointed. what I do not believe in is limiting the voter powers with term limits, age or residency restrictions.

      • Dan OBrien Dan OBrien says:

        Its nice to see that even the Great Mark Clemons can be led by the nose with tens of thousands of dollars worth of negative ads.

        I am all for a secure border, I don't care who is responsible for its enforcement. Since we are both supposed to be against a standing army as you and I have so often have agreed upon I see no problem at all having Militias do the border security. We might agree that they should be led by trained and qualified officers of their own choosing as was the custom prior to The Militia Act of 1903 (32 Stat. 775).

        If you want to blame the Republicans for screwing up this country..... Blame Teddy Roosevelt and Charles Dick, Congressman (later Senator) from Ohio who passed the act now known as the Dick Act, that repealed the Militia Acts of 1792 and began what is now the ( federalized) National Guard and Standing Armies of the United States Federal Government in conflict with the Constitution.

        But hey, never wanting to stand in the way of a good rant by you.... go right ahead a I am all for the repeal of the Dick Act and the 16 and 17th Amendment s.. We need to return to a (small r) republic again.

        • Mark Clemons Mark Clemons says:

          Gee, Dan when I said weak I did not mean I did not vote for him, His lack of funding made him weak, hell if he had the bucks he could have hired a Madison ave. guru that could convince the shallow voters with shiny fliers the silly border stunt was a heroic act.
          The main thing we both voted for the same and he lost, now what?


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