By Dom Ruscio, Partner
Let the finger-pointing begin! With Congress gone on a seven-week recess and an important mid-term election on the horizon, it’s no surprise that both parties are blaming one another for what one lawmaker called “the most do-nothingest Congress.”
According to the House Clerk who tracks this sort of thing, the 113th Congress has passed just 163 pieces of legislation that were enacted into law.
How does that stack up against previous legislative sessions? Well, it’s 120 fewer laws than their immediate predecessor and 220 fewer than the 111th Congress.
To some, that’s a badge of honor if it means shackling an overreaching, out-of-control federal government. Besides, they say, the GOP-controlled House passed several bills only to have them die a quiet death in the Senate graveyard. Senate Democrats, for their part, defended their actions by ticking off a long list of priorities—including a minimum wage increase, a halt to outsourcing jobs overseas and allowing student loans to be refinanced at a lower rate—that were blocked by GOP leaders.
Ah, the power to inspire!
Indeed, hopes ran high earlier this year when, for the first time since 2009, the House and Senate agreed on an overall budget. Both sides managed to hammer out a compromise that included 12 spending bills to keep the government running through fiscal year 2014. They even went so far as to settle on a top-line spending target for fiscal year 2015, clearing the way for at least one more year of stability.
Or so we thought.
Just before Congress left town, lawmakers managed to pass a continuing resolution through December 11. The CR was necessary to prevent another government shutdown because—wait for it—not a single spending bill had made it through Congress.
Call me myopic, but I consider passing appropriations bills one of, if not the most important jobs of Congress. Enacted spending bills mean kids are enrolled in Head Start programs, national security projects are launched and life-saving medical research is uninterrupted.
Maybe the following “epic fails” will inspire (or shame) the 113th Congress to complete its work.