Do-Nothing Congress Somehow Manages to Do Even Less

Charles Dharapak/AP file photo

The 112th Congress (2011-2013, R.I.P.) was relentlessly mocked for its amazing ability to not get things done, but the new edition is on pace to set an even greater standard for futility. The 112th, which ended its last session on January 3, passed 220 laws, the fewest of any Congress since they started keep statistics, and more than 100 fewer than the previous record low. Yet, six months into its term the 113th Congress is actually on pace to pass even fewer laws than that. Just 15 bills have become law this year, compared to 23 over the same period in 2011. (It also doesn't help that they rarely show up to work.)

Now to be fair, more laws don't necessarily mean better laws. (Most conservatives and libertarians would argue that the fewer laws there are, the better.) But as Ezra Klein pointed out in his eulogy for the last term, many of the laws passed by the 112th were intentionally designed to spur future legislative action that never came to pass. (Remember the fiscal cliff? Sequestration?) Those ideas failed miserably, causing much more harm than good, and the 113th has done nothing to pick up the slack. The only the sequester problem that's been "fixed" was a few airport lines. Everyone else has been out of luck.

So with six months gone in 2013, there's been no progress on immigration, the debt ceiling, gun control, taxes, climate change, or any of the big, hot ticket items that everyone says they want to take action. And it's clear that they're not simply responding to the will of the people. One of the few things they have accomplished is historically low approval and confidence ratings. Voting 37 times to repeal a law that isn't going away has a way of making people thing that you're wasting their time.

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