To the do-nothing Congress: Bye-bye!
By Ezra Klein - Jan 2, 2013, Bloomberg
On January 3rd, the 112th Congress of the United States of America finally ends. Thank God.
To properly evaluate the 112th, consider the record of its predecessor, the 111th Congress, which ran from January 2009 to January 2011. The fighting 111th passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (better known as the “stimulus”), the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”), and the Dodd-Frank financial reforms. It passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and expanded both the Serve America Act for community service and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. It created significant new anti-tobacco regulations, ratified the New Start nuclear arms reduction treaty, ended “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the armed forces and agreed to the 2010 tax deal, which extended the Bush tax cuts in return for the passage of middle- class stimulus.
The laws passed by the 111th Congress were controversial, particularly among Republicans. They were also big, bold initiatives that, if not always fully equal to the size of our problems, surely perched on the outer edge of Congress’s capacity to deliver solutions. Love it or hate it, the 111th Congress governed. No Congress in recent history has a record of productivity anywhere near it.
What’s the record of the 112th Congress? Well, it almost shut down the government and almost breached the debt ceiling. It almost went over the fiscal cliff (which it had designed in the first place). It cut a trillion dollars of discretionary spending in the Budget Control Act and scheduled another trillion in spending cuts through an automatic sequester, which everyone agrees is terrible policy. It achieved nothing of note on housing, energy, stimulus, immigration, guns, tax reform, infrastructure, climate change or, really, anything. It’s hard to identify a single significant problem that existed prior to the 112th Congress that was in any way improved by its two years of rule.