By: Roy Douglas Malonson
Congress is the legislative branch of the United States federal government that is composed of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. Plainly put, Congress is responsible for making the laws that govern the country. Together, the Senate and the House of Representatives share an equal voice in legislation. Congress convened in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 2011, and will end on January 3, 2013, 17 days before the end of the presidential term. Senators elected to regular terms in 2006 will complete those terms in this Congress.
This Congress includes the last House of Representatives elected from congressional districts that were apportioned based on the 2000 census. Although Democrats kept their Senate majority, their seats were reduced from the previous Congress. The 112th Congress has 242 Republican seats. Thus far, the 112th Congress has been a huge disappointment for the United States.
One of the major let downs was a failure to pass a 2011 federal budget that nearly led to a shutdown of non-essential government services in April 2011. This governmental shutdown would have at least 800,000 government employees in danger, in addition to government programs.
Outright, Congress has not done anything. Most recently, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Republicans control majority of the House and oppose President Obama’s health reform law (Obamacare), therefore, they voted to get rid of it. This was the 33rd time they voted to repeal the Act. It’s similar to spinning tires in mud, you will never get anywhere.
Columinist Ezra Klein compiled a list of reasons of why they are the worst Congress ever.
The reasons are:
~ They’re not passing laws. There’s no session of Congress with such a poor record of productivity. Reportedly, they have only passed 222 compared to 437 in the previous Congress.
~ They’re hideously unpopular. Only 11 percent approved of this Congress.
~ They’re incredibly polarized. This means the distance between the two parties.
~ They’ve set back the recovery. The Republicans came closer than ever before to breaching the debt ceiling and setting off a global financial crisis.
~ They lost the nation’s credit rating. After the debt ceiling debacle, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the United States’s credit rating for the first time in the country’s history.
~ They’re terrible even when they’re “super.” The supposed upside of the deal to lift the debt ceiling led to the creation of the Special Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction — better known as “the supercommittee. The supercommittee, which was comprised of an equal number of Democratic and Republican lawmakers from both the House and the Senate could, with a simple majority vote, send its recommendations to the rest of the Congress, where they couldn’t be filibustered, amended or otherwise blocked. They failed.
~ Repeal. Repeal. Repeal. Seems like this is all they know. We have visited this issue 33 times with the Affordable Healthcare Act.
~The budget shenanigans of Senate Democrats. In 2009, Senate Democrats passed a budget. In 2010, they marked one up in the Budget Committee, but didn’t bring it to the floor. Beginning in 2011, in this Congress — they just stopped bothering with the whole budget thing altogether. Republicans argue, correctly, that budgets, even when they don’t pass, are where you lay out your vision for the country. Senate Democrats, in refusing to propose or vote for any budgets, are refusing to give voters that information.
~They can’t get appropriations done on time. Arguably the most basic job of Congress is to fund the federal government — to simply keep the lights on. That’s done through the annual appropriations process, which requires Congress to pass 13 appropriations bills by October 1st. That hasn’t been happening lately.
~ The transportation-infrastructure fiasco. Surface transportation bills are where Congress deals with another of the most fundamental jobs of federal governance: Setting aside money for roads, runways, bridges, and subways systems, and other mainstays of our transportation infrastructure.
~ The FAA shutdown. When it came time to fund the Federal Aviation Administration, House Republicans wanted to cut $16.5 million in subsidies to rural airports and to rewrite the rules around unionizing airports such that workers who didn’t vote would be counted as “no” votes. In the midst of a severely depressed economy, 4,000 FAA workers and 70,000 airport construction workers were furloughed. The shutdown ended a few weeks earlier. The cost to the government from uncollected airline ticket taxes alone was $350 million.
~ Perhaps no single institution in Washington matters as much during an economic crisis as the Federal Reserve. And for most of the last six years, the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors has been missing a few members.
~ Experts agree. The most respected scholars of Congress in Washington are Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, who stated, “We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional.”
~ There actually are problems they need to solve. When the 112th Congress was sworn in, unemployment was at 9.1 percent. Since then, it’s fallen to 8.2 percent — and that’s been in spite of Congress’s disastrous handling of the debt ceiling, and its inaction on jobs.
Concluding, it is about time that Congress starts to performing and upholding the responsibilities that the American elected them to. It has been quite a while since Congress has performed the duties of which it is supposed to. Primarily, the passing of an adequate budget to suite the American people and managing the appropriations bill for each individual federal agency. Unfortunately, the only thing that the last several terms of Congress have produced is, continually putting off and bumping up against deadlines and funding the federal government by using massive and inconsiderable catch-all continuing resolutions. The end result has revealed the Worst Congress in History.