A Bad Rap
JUST before Congress adjourned for its August recess, Democrats engaged in a flurry of legislative activity, while Republicans complained about a “do-nothing” Congress’s meager policy accomplishments. Deep partisan differences, narrow majorities and a Republican in the White House have frustrated Democratic ambitions and fueled a toxic atmosphere in both chambers of Congress. The public’s low approval ratings reflect broad discontent with the direction of the country but also displeasure with Congress for failing to reverse course on Iraq and for continuing the bitter partisan warfare. ...
Still, the Democratic Congress’s legislative harvest this year has been bountiful compared with that of its Republican counterpart in 1995. Back then, the Republicans’ Contract With America was stymied by opposition from the Senate and the president. The new Congress has enacted a far-reaching lobbying and ethics reform bill, an increase in the minimum wage, recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, foreign investment rules and a competitiveness package, and has embedded a number of major initiatives and new priorities in continuing and supplemental spending bills. Democrats also made headway on energy, children’s health insurance, college student loans, Head Start, drug safety and a farm bill — though much of this awaits action in the Senate or in conference and faces a possible veto.
During the first seven months of 1995, Congressional oversight of the executive branch increased modestly in the Senate but not at all in the House. But this year Congress, especially the House, has intensified its oversight, following years of inattention and deference by its Republican predecessor. [Emphasis added]
There have been failures, some of them disasterous, such as the recent FISA law "update," but this Congress has accomplished quite a bit so far, probably because it has been in session many more days than its predecessors. Then why the "do-nothing" label?
As the op-ed piece notes, Congress has done nothing to stop the carnage in Iraq, the issue that matters most to Americans. I think, however, there's more to it. The press hasn't done the Democratic led Congress any favors, focusing more on the political rancor than on the accomplishments. And the Democrats haven't helped their cause by promising to do things if elected and then failing to follow through with the dramatic proposals they promised, such as cleaning up the ethical failures of the last Congress.
Still, if you look carefully at the graphic accompanying the article (which has to be enlarged to read, and therefor too big to include here), the differences between the first seven months in 1995 and the first seven months in 2007 are pretty dramatic.
If nothing else, the first seven months have been a pretty good start. I just hope the next seventeen are as productive.
Labels: 110th Congress