The New York Times writes today, “The 112th Congress is set to enter the Congressional record books as the least productive body in a generation, passing a mere 173 public laws as of last month. . . . Appropriations bills, once the central function of the legislative branch, have been ditched in favor of short-term spending measures that do little more than keep the lights on.”
The Times points out, “Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and majority leader, seems content to achieve little, both as a way of avoiding filibusters and embarrassing votes for incumbents up for re-election, as well long floor proceedings that serve only to keep members off the campaign trail. . . . [A]ppropriators have been disabled, with leaders using the excuse that the House will not negotiate in good faith by using the same budget numbers. They have been somewhat stymied by the White House, which also threatened to veto such bills if the House does not comply with its demands.”
“In the Senate,” the NYT writes, “Democrats have closed down much of the longstanding process of allowing amendments to bills, which has enraged Republicans, who then often turn those bills away via filibuster.”
But The Times seems to be forgetting that this has been the way Democrats have run the Senate since the 112th Congress began in January 2011. In May of that year, Politico reported, “The Senate has never been a model of efficiency — but this year, the chamber is taking that reputation to a whole new level. The numbers tell the story: Through last week, the Senate had held only 70 roll-call votes, the lowest level through this point in the year since 1997.” At the time, The Washington Post noted, “The Democrats… are not proposing major, new ideas of their own,” National Journal observed that “Senate Democrats have almost no legislative agenda of their own” and The Wall Street Journal editors called them “A.W.O.L.”
Two months later Roll Call wrote that “[tough] votes have been in remarkably short supply this year” and pointed out, “Democrats up for re-election concede that the politics of 2012 has significantly influenced the Senate’s productivity this year and the general willingness to take tough votes . . . .”
Nothing has changed this year. Politico wrote in the spring that “Democratic leaders have defiantly refused to lay out their own vision for how to deal with federal debt and spending… centrists in the 53-member Democratic conference expressed frustration with their party’s budget inaction.” And MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough grumbled, “The Democrats have decided in the midst of a financial meltdown they’re going to do absolutely nothing…”
So when journalists and even President Obama complain of little happening in the Senate or Congress, they need look no farther than the Democrats who control the Senate for answers.
As Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said last week, “The nation is at risk of an entirely avoidable economic calamity because the President of the United States and the Democrats who control the Senate would rather spend their time picking apart Paul Ryan and his budget plan — which the House has already passed — than producing one of their own. They’d rather sit on the sidelines and hope people focus on the other guy’s attempts to solve our most pressing domestic problems than bother to do anything about them themselves. This has been the Democrat M.O. for two years. And it’s a disgrace. . . . Democrats refuse to do the basic work of government. Democrats haven’t passed a budget in more than three years. This year, they haven’t passed a single appropriations bill. For two years, Democrats have done nothing but cast blame. The law says Democrats have to pass a budget. They’ve ignored it. . . .
“The nation’s just three and a half months away from going off a fiscal cliff. They welcome it. Because their overriding goal isn’t to help the American people find work. It isn’t to get a handle on the debt. It isn’t to give small businesses a boost. . . .[A]ll we get from the President or from Democrats in Congress is feel-good rhetoric, attacks on Republicans who are actually working solve our problems, and political show-votes that are deliberately designed to fail.”