Current Congress On Track To Be Even Less Productive Than The Last

us-capitol-rotunda

The 112th Congress was among the least productive in American history, and its successor is already on track to beat that record:

[S]ix months in – highlighted by a string of legislative stalemates – the 113th Congress (2013-2014) is on track to match or even surpass those dubious distinctions.

After the last Congress saw its approval ratings drop to their lowest levels, aJune Gallup survey found that just 10 percent of Americans have confidence in the institution. That’s the lowest percentage Gallup ever measured for Congress on this question – or, for that matter, any other American institution, including the presidency, big business, the medical profession and public schools.

When it comes to productivity, only 15 legislative items have become law under the current Congress. That’s fewer than the 23 items that became law at this same point in the 112th Congress, which passed a historically low number of bills that were signed into law.

To many observers, these are signs of broken government, gerrymandered congressional districts and out-of-control partisanship on Capitol Hill.

But they’re also a reflection of divided government, especially during a time of profound and rapid social change.

“The country is pretty divided in a lot of different ways, and [Congress] not doing things reflects those divisions,” said John Samples, a political scholar at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute.

I believe Samples is largely correct here. Yes, issues like gerrymandering and the every shrinking number of House Districts that are considered “swing” districts play a large role in what’s going on here, but those structural issues are just serving to magnify the divisions that already exist in the country as a whole. Voters remain divided, even among themselves, on important issues like the budget, entitlement reform, and taxes. Most importantly, though, they sent back to Washington a Democratic President and Senate, and a Republican House. If that’s not a sign that the electorate itself is divided, I don’t know what is.

 

FILED UNDER: Congress, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. superdestroyer says:

    Maybe there is nothing wrong with Congress being unrpoductive. The deficit is decreasing, unemployment is going down, and there is no regulatory programs to negatively impact the economy.

    Maybe the Democrats should learn from the second Clinton Administration and remember that inactive government is good for the private sector.

  2. PJ says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Most importantly, though, they sent back to Washington a Democratic President and Senate, and a Republican House. If that’s not a sign that the electorate itself is divided, I don’t know what is.

    The Republican House has a lot to do with gerrymandering and not a divided electorate, it would take a wave election for the Democrats to retake the House due to the latest redistricting.

    Democratic House candidates got 53,952,240 votes in 2012, Republican House candidates got 53,402,643 votes.

  3. PJ says:

    @PJ:

    Democratic House candidates got 53,952,240 votes in 2012, Republican House candidates got 53,402,643 votes.

    Old numbers.
    Newer numbers: 59,343,447 to 58,178,393.

  4. PJ says:

    @PJ:

    Newer numbers: 59,343,447 to 58,178,393.

    Old numbers too:
    59,649,982 to 58,284,825.
    That’s 1,365,157 more votes cast for the Democrats than the Republicans.

    (btw, I miss the edit button).

  5. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    To those of us of a small-l libertarian bent, a non-productive Congress sounds pretty darned nifty.

  6. edmondo says:

    If that’s not a sign that the electorate itself is divided, I don’t know what is.

    the American people are well aware that under the current system the choice is to vote for the Party of the Corrupt and give Wall Street everything they’ve bought and paid the Democrats for or vote for the Party of Crazy and ensure that absolutely nothing gets passed. I will probably vote Crazy Party myself in 2014 just to run out the clock on the O-man.

  7. Gustopher says:

    Aside from PJ not being able to ever pull up the right numbers, he is correct — the American people voted for a Democratic House of Representatives. Individual districts voted for various representatives, but ultimately gerrymandering is the only reason we have Speaker Boehner rather than Speaker Pelosi, and why we cannot even pass a farm bill.

  8. PJ says:

    @Gustopher:

    Aside from PJ not being able to ever pull up the right numbers

    Actually my last numbers are the right numbers 🙂

    (Since that article was posted Hawaii has finalized its totals too, and the google document has been updated with those.)

  9. superdestroyer says:

    @PJ:

    the number of districts won by more than 70% is dominated by Democratic districts due to majority/minority districts. The claims that it is the Republicans fault is not supported by any examination of the current structure of Congress.

  10. Tillman says:

    The Republicans are doing a fine job, really. The base thinks Obama will destroy the country if his agenda becomes law, and their elected representatives are doing literally everything they can to slow or stop it.

    Truly, they are conserving.

  11. Dave Schuler says:

    I just wish the lack of productivity had set in a few years earlier. We might have avoided invading Iraq, had a less ambitious PATRIOT Act, or not cut taxes for the highest income earners in 2002-2003 (which did little to improve the economy and what it did was short-lived).

  12. superdestroyer says:

    @PJ:

    Even Nate Silver does not support the gerrymandering meme that the Democrats have been pushing. http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/25/majority-minority-districts-are-products-of-geography-not-voting-rights-act/?_r=0 There was almost no Congressional District that vote for Romney at a delta of 60% but there were many districts where virtually no one voted for Romney and it is due to geography.

  13. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Gustopher: Aside from PJ not being able to ever pull up the right numbers, he is correct — the American people voted for a Democratic House of Representatives.

    Well, then, gosh, doesn’t it just suck that the Democrats are too stupid to spread out their votes, instead of concentrating them in districts where they win overwhelmingly? Why, it’s like they think that there’s just one big vote for the House, instead of 435 separate, independent races.

    Damn that stupid Constitution…

  14. C. Clavin says:

    “… The deficit is decreasing, unemployment is going down, and there is no regulatory programs to negatively impact the economy…”

    That’s right…get the f’ out of the way of the adults.
    But what happened to Obamacare regulating us into a depression?
    What a maroon.

  15. Tillman says:

    @Dave Schuler: Yeah, post-9/11 broken government would have been a godsend. Too bad Democrats are wimps and gave in to insinuations of treachery and lack of patriotism.

  16. Xenos says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Well, then, gosh, doesn’t it just suck that the Democrats are too stupid to spread out their votes, instead of concentrating them in districts where they win overwhelmingly?

    Gerrymandering. Look it up.

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Well, then, gosh, doesn’t it just suck that the Democrats are too stupid to spread out their votes, instead of concentrating them in districts where they win overwhelmingly?

    What a box of rocks… Parties don’t set their districts, the state legislature does. Here in Misery the GOP dominated in 2010 and proceeded to set the districts such that even tho they could not win a single statewide office in 2012 that actually did something, they won super majorities in both the state House and Senate. Democrats did not pack all their voters into as few districts as possible, the GOP dominated state legislature did.

    I don’t know who the Dems or the GOP are going to run for President in 2016, but unless the DEM has a 666 tattoo and the GOP has Jesus on the ticket, Blunt could well be hard pressed to return to Washington.

  18. superdestroyer says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    But under the VRA process, no one questions packing all of the black or Latino voters into a few districts. No only do the Republicans not have to bother running candidates in majority-minority districts but the people elected in such districts are way to liberal to win in state wide office.

    It would greatly benefit Democrats to have fewer majority/minority districts. More Districts would go for the Democrats and the minority reps elected in the newer districts would be moderate enough to eventually run for state wide office.

  19. Caj says:

    No news there then! With the fabulous rating they have now of 10% that should drop down to 0% in short order! To think they get paid for being useless time wasters. It’s a national disgrace.

  20. TheoNott says:

    Well, what do you know, superdestroyer is right on the money for once. Stopped clocks, and all that…

    While 2010 redistricting certainly worked to the Republicans advantage, even if all districts were randomly created via algorithm, the Republicans would still have an inherent advantage, because they are the rural party. A system of single-member districts works to the advantage of the party that has more geographically-distributed supporters. The ideal solution is simply to abolish single-member districts altogether. Instead, why not expand the House to 1000 members (or more) set it to automatically adjust for population changes, then have state elect a slate of representatives based upon proportional representation. For instance, if 42 percent of Nebraskans vote Democratic, Nebraska sends a 40 percent Democratic delegation to Congress.
    Really, does it make any sense to elect our representatives locally? They make legislation that affects the entire nation, and yet they are only each responsive to an unrepresentative blob of about 700000 of us.

  21. al-Ameda says:

    This Republican-led House (aka “current Congress”) is the governance equivalent of the Stringfellow Acid Pits. But you know, this is exactly what the public wanted, no matter what the two-faced lying public says to pollsters. They voted for these guys.

    It’s not hard to figure out what will happen when you elect a majority House that is not interested in good or responsible governance, rather a majority House that is interested in tearing down as much of the government as is possible. This is what the people on the right voted for and it’s here.

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @superdestroyer:

    But under the VRA process, no one questions packing all of the black or Latino voters into a few districts.

    Agreed, but-

    @superdestroyer:

    It would greatly benefit Democrats to have fewer majority/minority districts. More Districts would go for the Democrats and the minority reps elected in the newer districts would be moderate enough to eventually run for state wide office.

    You don’t need to pass thru a congressional district in order to run state wide. In fact, here in Misery it tends to work against a state wide candidate. And yet other than one US Senator and the Lt. Gov, all the rest of the state wide offices are held by Dems. Blunt is the one exception to this rule, and as I stated above, I think he is going to have a rough time of it. Nixon will be term limited out as Gov and has nowhere else to go. He is rural and Dem. That is a winning combination in this state.

  23. Pinky says:

    Does productivity mean changin things, or making things better? Cause I’m guessing that a lot of Congresses have been less productive by the latter measure.

  24. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    Does productivity mean changin things, or making things better? Cause I’m guessing that a lot of Congresses have been less productive by the latter measure.

    Oh, I don’t know. I don’t remember any other Congress attempting and failing (thank god) 37 times in a 3 year period, to repeal a piece of legislation that causes them vomit incessantly.

    Since the 2010 midterms, even OJ Simpson has been more productive than the Republican House.