The 'Do-Nothing' Congress Really Did Nothing This Year

The 'Do-Nothing' Congress Really Did Nothing This Year

With just a few short weeks remaining before the end of the 2011 session, Congress has passed its fewest number of bills in at least the last 10 non-election years. According to The Washington Post, the 326 bills passed by the House of Representatives is roughly one-third of the number they passed in 2009 (970) and barely a quarter of the number passed in 2007 (1,127). The Senate has approved 368 bills, also well below its typical off-year numbers and the fewest since 1995.

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As a result, the President Obama has only signed 62 new laws through November 30, compared to 88 signed by President Clinton in 1995, the last time Republicans took over the House with a Democrat in the White House.

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Of course, some people would welcome this result, as there is certainly an argument to be made against over-legislation. Majority Leader Eric Cantor says he wants to "stress quality over quantity" and the House has eliminated most "commemorative" legislation, like resolutions honoring sports teams and the renaming of post offices.

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However, the lack of official action does underscore just how divided our divided government currently is. Long, drawn-out battles over things like the debt ceiling and the payroll tax have handcuffed Congress' ability to get other things done. Compromises, especially on the budget, have been few and far between. The House has passed just six of the 11 appropriations bills needed for next year and the Senate has ignored most of the legislation sent to them by the lower chamber. And who could forget the colossal waste of time that was the supercommittee? The lack of cooperation will only intensify once the 2012 campaign season gets underway in earnest. 

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