This Congress could be least productive since 1947

8:39 AM, Aug 15, 2012   |    comments
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By Susan Davis, USA TODAY

Congress is on pace to make history with the least productive legislative year in the post World War II era.

Just 61 bills have become law to date in 2012 out of 3,914 bills that have been introduced by lawmakers, or less than 2% of all proposed laws, according to a USA TODAY analysis of records since 1947 kept by the U.S. House Clerk's office.

In 2011, after Republicans took control of the U.S. House, Congress passed just 90 bills into law. The only other year in which Congress failed to pass at least 125 laws was 1995.

These statistics make the 112th Congress, covering 2011-12, the least productive two-year gathering on Capitol Hill since the end of World War II. Not even the 80th Congress, which President Truman called the "do-nothing Congress" in 1948, passed as few laws as the current one, records show.

The difference between 1995 and now is that Republicans rebounded in the second year of the 104th Congress in 1996, churning out 245 laws with a Democratic president, including a tax cut package, a minimum wage increase, an overhaul of the nation's welfare system, and requiring law enforcement to disclose where sex offenders live.

Doug Heye, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., defended the chamber, citing over 30 economic measures the House has passed that have fizzled in the Democratic-run Senate "at the behest of a president who is presiding over the worst economic recovery in history."

When Democrats controlled both chambers during the 111th Congress, 258 laws were enacted in 2010 and 125 in 2009, including President Obama's health care law.

The 112th Congress will conclude after Election Day following an anticipated lame duck session. It has been defined by partisan divisions and legislative failures, including a bipartisan "Super Committee" that failed to enact $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.

Issues on which the divided Congress has not found consensus include the Dec. 31 expiration of the Bush tax cuts and a budget plan to replace $109 billion in automatic spending cuts, a drought-relief plan passed by the House but not the Senate, the extension of the Senate-passed federal farm bill that is languishing in the House and a bill to overhaul the U.S. Postal Service.

The inertia continues to fuel Congress' historically low approval ratings, which hit 10% Tuesday, according to Gallup polling.



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