A report in the Washington Times today observes an important milestone:
It’s official: Congress ended its least-productive year in modern history after passing 80 bills — fewer than during any other session since year-end records began being kept in 1947.
The headline of the story describes 2011 as a “futile”year for our elected representatives in both houses of Congress.
The story sums up the year:
The Senate’s record was weakest by a huge margin, according to the futility index, and the House had its 10th-worst session on record.
Of the bills the 112th Congress did pass, the majority were housekeeping measures, such as naming post office buildings or extending existing laws. Sometimes, it was too difficult for the two chambers to hammer out agreements. More often, the Senate failed to reach agreement within the chamber.
That left much of the machinery of the federal government on autopilot, with the exception of spending, where monumental clashes dominated the legislative session.
Whoaa! Just a minute, please!
I am an alumna and devoted fan of the Washington Times. But this story left me wondering: What are they thinking?
Mes amis, as Mitt Romney might say, it is arguably a good thing that there were fewer bills passed this year.
The 2010 midterm elections sent a record number of fiscal conservatives to Washington. The hope was that they would put the brakes on the big-spending juggernaut. This report indicates that they might have done just that.
In developing a “yardstick” to show how successful Congress was last year, the newspaper looked at such things as the number of bills passed, the number of floor votes, and even “the number of pages amassed in the Congressional Record.”
I would argue that fewer votes and fewer pages “amassed” in the Congressional Record may mean fewer bad things are getting done.
Sure, it would be great if the Congress had met its obligations and produced a budget. Sure, it would be nice if there were less brinkmanship. And, yes, Senator Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, is right that there is a lack of comity:
“We’ve spent months on things that used to happen just matter-of-factly,” [Reid] said. “I would hope that they understand that everything doesn’t have to be a fight. Legislation is the art of working together, building consensus, compromise.”
But a standstill is preferable to passage of bad bills. What we really need is not to pass new laws but to start repealing some older ones, especially some of the recent regulatory laws that have clogged the economy.
Far from being a sign of futility, the relative paucity of bills probably means that Congress hasn't been as able to pick our pockets as it has been in less futile years.
Barack Obama may rail on about a "do-nothing Congress." Not me. The less they do, the less they cost us.
Would that we’d had more of this kind of "futility" during President Obama’s first two years in office!
Quite coincidentally, I have a piece on Townhall tomorrow that touches on this theme. It’s about Rep. Ron Paul, who is all his years in Congress has managed to get only one bill enacted into law! Because of this, I hail him as a legislative giant.