Meanwhile, Back in the Congress

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting front-page story yesterday about the amazing lack of production from the United States Congress.

As Elizabeth Williamson writes in the Journal, “Barring a burst of legislative activity after Labor Day, this group of 535 men and women will have accomplished a rare feat. In two decades of record keeping, no sitting Congress has passed fewer public laws at this point in the session — 294 so far — than this one. That's not to say they've been idle. On the flip side, no Congress in the same 20 years has been so prolific when it comes to proposing resolutions — more than 1,900, according to a tally by the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense.

“With the mostly symbolic measures, Congress has saluted such milestones as the Idaho Potato Commission's 70th anniversary and recognized soil as an ‘essential natural resource.’ As legislation on gasoline prices, tax fixes and predatory lending languish, Congress has designated May 5-9 as National Substitute Teacher Recognition Week, and set July 28 as the Day of the American Cowboy.”

In other words, this Congress is all sizzle and no steak.

House Republicans seized on this lack of production to stage a protest about the lack of production on one particular issue, energy. They have held daily press conferences protesting the Speaker’s decision to go on vacation rather than deal with offshore drilling and other domestic energy initiatives. And their protest has paid some dividends for the beleaguered House GOP, giving them a winning issue for the first time in months.

When House Republicans took over the Congress in the 1994 elections, they worked their butts off, not only for the first 100 days, but for the entire two years. They overcame the public relations disaster of the government shut-down by reforming welfare, they passed their spending bills, they passed a budget that balanced, they passed major tax relief, and they showed the voters that they deserved another shot at the majority.

House Democrats have learned nothing from that experience. They have worked little since the first six months of their new majority. They have done little in the way of big accomplishments. They are so confident that Barack Obama will be president (perhaps too confident) they are postponing action on most issues because they would rather negotiate with somebody other than President Bush. They have passed no spending bills (other than a war supplemental), no reconciliation bills and no tax bills.

Congressional approval ratings can’t break 20 percent. That is a very dangerous situation for the congressional majority. And yet they don’t seem to understand that the best way to make the people happy is to get some solid bipartisan accomplishments under their belt.

The congressional majority is betting that inertia will carry them back to their majority. Don’t be shocked if that inertia carries many members of their caucus to the end of the their congressional careers.



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