With the 113th Congress in recess, and election day rapidly approaching, now seems like a good time to take a look at how this Congress stacks up to its predecessors. Sure, there are four months left for the 113th, but it doesn’t seem likely that they’ll get back to work and crank out hundreds of pieces of legislation, so we’re free to judge them as they are.
As it stands, this Congress has passed 142 bills that have become law. On average, the 103rd-112th each passed 425.5 bills into law. Just because bills are not becoming law at the same rate they have in the past does not mean, as a standalone figure, that there is a problem with Congress. Many people, Republicans most notably, tend to favor the argument that the best course of action when it comes to Federal Laws is to have fewer of them, and that decreasing the rate at which we sign new laws into effect is a positive thing.
However, considering that in order to repeal a law already on the books a new law must be passed, that line of reasoning still speaks to a problem within the current Congress. Fewer laws are being enacted, while people on both sides of the political divide clamor for action on issues like immigration, guns, and the economy.
Congressional gridlock is occasionally used as a badge of honor, with partisans on both sides of the aisle claiming that stalling tactics used to block legislation is better than what “the other side” would accomplish if allowed to run rampant. That argument, however, ignores the miles and miles of middle ground between the two poles. Liberal Democrats want to pass a law prohibiting the marketing of electronic cigarettes to children, and conservative Republicans want to require parental notification for all unemancipated minors seeking abortions, but there are issues both sides can and should find common ground on. The nuts and bolts issues of running a country – funding transportation, infrastructure, the VA – these are all things where the differences between the two major parties in Congress are not so insurmountable that they can’t be hammered out, and yet members of Congress still prefer to seem “victorious” in pushing back an opposition agenda than working together on anything, even refusing to tackle the smallest issues before them, lest they be labeled “compromisers” and “flip-floppers.”