Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What Exactly Does Congress Do?

According to Ben Pershing of The Washington Post, nothing. The end of 2011 brought to a close one of the least productive sessions of Congress in recent years. President Obama “signed the fewest measures into law in at least two decades” in non-election years. Congressional popularity hit the floor at the end of the 2011 session; however, the reasons are unclear. Many Americans blame political gridlock and the hyper-partisan nature of both chambers as the source for congress’ record-low approval ratings, yet “some Americans think Congress is doing too much, (while) others say it’s not enough.”

Through November 30th, the House of Representatives had passed 326 bills, which marked the lowest total in the last 10 non-election years. The Senate performed no better, approving a mere 368 measures, the fewest since the mid-1990’s. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), cited gridlock as a potential long-term benefit, stating that “the goal for this Congress is to stress quality over quantity in terms of the flow of legislation on the floor.” However, that reeks of being merely an excuse to preserve his seat.

The back and forth between the House and the Senate has surely contributed to this issues. The House has decreasing incentive to pass additional bills, since “so many measures…have piled up on the Senate’s doorstep” with no result. James Thurber, the director of American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, views this paralyzing gridlock as “Exhibit A in showing how dysfunctional the Congress has become.”

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