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Analysis: Congress Is Least Productive In Decades

Aug 15, 2012
Originally published on August 15, 2012 5:23 pm
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Just 10 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, according to a new Gallup poll. And this next story is not likely to raise that number. According to one analysis, this Congress is on a pace to be the least productive in recent memory.

NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: The analysis was conducted by USA Today. Looking at records of the House Clerk's Office, they found 3,914 bills have been introduced by lawmakers this year, but just 61 of them have become law. In 2011, Congress passed 90 laws. That's much less than the previous record for futility in the mid-1990s.

In contrast, the Congress of 1947 and '48, which President Harry Truman famously ran against as the Do-Nothing Congress, passed over 900 laws; among them, the Marshall Plan that financed the rebuilding of Europe after World War II.

Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein, of the American Enterprise Institute, says this Congress has done nothing nearly as significant.

NORMAN ORNSTEIN: We don't have anything comparable to a Marshall Plan here. And what we have instead is a debt limit debacle, a failure of the supercommittee, an inability to pass a farm bill in the midst of the worst drought since the Great Depression, a failure to tackle in any way a looming fiscal cliff that could send the country back down into a recession, and passage of a bunch of commemorative bills naming post offices.

NAYLOR: A spokesman for the House says Republicans there have approved more than 30 bills that are now languishing in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But many are measures that stood no chance of ever being approved, like repealing the health care law.

Lawmakers will be returning to Washington next month, and they'll most likely reconvene after the election for a lame duck session. And unless they act, steep budget cuts will automatically take effect, while the Bush tax cuts will expire - the so-called fiscal cliff. But it's unclear whether lawmakers, faced with all that, will suddenly find the keys to productivity.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.