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