Sunday, March 11, 2012

Gridlock Assuages as November Approaches

On Thursday the House overwhelmingly approved the Jumpstart our Business Startups (JOBS) Act with a 390 to 23 vote. Congress hopes the JOBS act will make it easier for small businesses to access investment sources within capital markets. However, leaders in Congress were upfront and open that political pressure and the upcoming elections played a major role in this compromise between parties. As reported in the New York Times:

“We are in an election season, and the test for any candidate is whether they can produce results,” Representative Eric Cantor (House majority leader) said in a statement. Big fights are still ahead, especially over a budget proposal in the House. But this week produced rare moments of cooperation among House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House.

The months leading up to November are a gift to the American people in regard to Congressional gridlock. In today’s world, Congress seems to make the most legislative progress when there is a national crisis or when their seats are up for reelection. Next week, the bill will move to the Senate where it is predicted to pass with ease. The Senate also passed a transportation and infrastructure bill this week as political pressure drove both parties toward bipartisanship.

Although reelection plays a major role in this movement to produce results, it is refreshing to see both sides compromise. As more controversial bills such as the budget surface at the top of the political agenda, it will be interesting to watch gridlock reappear and divide the newly formed common ground.


  1. It will be interesting to see if and how the passage of this bill will appear in the upcoming congressional elections. My guess is that Republican incumbents will highlight the JOBS Act as an indication of GOP leadership in efforts to work across the aisle - considering the bill originated from a Republican Congressman, and its 23 opponents in the House vote were all Democrats ( As you mention, Mark, Republicans acknowledge that that the pressures of the November election have influenced their conduct; the GOP is in trouble, and it is attempting to improve its public image.

    The party has a lot of ground to cover, however, as 40% of respondents in a recent Pew poll blame Republicans for the "do-nothing" Congress, as opposed to only 23% blaming Democrats ( Voters are overwhelmingly disappointed with their federal representatives, both Republican and Democratic, which will likely manifest in the November election. While the JOBS Act certainly shows (momentary) progress in Congress, our representatives will be sorely disappointed if they believe it will mask the inexcusable conduct that has been characteristic of the past four years. In short, I believe the bipartisan character of this bill will be politically inconsequential, especially for the GOP. Americans are not as short-sighted or naive as to see it as an indication of genuine political change.

  2. Just to play devil's advocate, I wonder how much of this compromise is more do the concept of "Jobs" being a good one, rather than the GOP wanting to improve its image with November in mind. Everyone wants to (appear to) focus on jobs: Republicans criticize President Obama for not doing more to create them, and Obama criticizes Republicans for blocking the Administration's efforts or focusing on tax cuts for the rich instead. The compromise might be more to do with it being a bill amenable for everyone in substance.

    I also wonder if there's a bias towards compromise in the lead up to November because the Administration is less likely to introduce controversial legislation during this period (whereas the Opposition does the opposite, see: the Blunt Amendment). Other than the budget, which always produces a skirmish, the big-ticket proposals, like the Affordable Care Act, came during the beginning of Obama's term (and freshmen Representatives came in raring to block such efforts in order to make their own statement).

  3. This story is another reminder of the real problems we are having in Washington. When we are acknowledging the passage of a commonsense bill to help job creation in America as an accomplishment, this should be an indicator that the system is broken. Both republicans and democrats have been advocating solutions to aid in the development of small businesses, so it’s refreshing to read that something has finally gotten done in regards to this issue. However, it serves as a reminder to me about all the things that are not getting done in congress. Where is the infrastructure bank? Education reform? Or Immigration reform?

    I sincerely hope there begins to be more compromise in Washington over the next few months. Even if congressmen are simply trying to score political points, this is still better than the gridlock we have witnessed over the past year. It nothing else, I hope it will at least improve come January 1, 2013.

    1. Maybe our rhetoric towards the passage of this bill should not be seen as an indicator that the system is broken, but instead as a means to alleviate gridlock. The JOBS bill is an example of how certain types of legislation should be strategically pushed during these times of "extreme" gridlock. It would be wise for both parties to frontload this election year with multiple, small bills aimed at topics such as reducing unemployment, jumpstarting the economy and promoting women’s rights. These are all extremely important issues whose increased focus would be advantageous for the country, as well as for both parties.

      It may be over idealistic to say that pushing through a few small and easy to agree on bills will significantly impact the toxic atmosphere in Congress, but it seems like the longer we allow Congress to do nothing, the easier it becomes for them to do just that.