A headline in Saturday’s New York Times shocked me — “Ex-Outsiders, Run on House Record.” What House record? Surely these new congressmen are not running on the record of a Congress that has done less than a quarter of what Harry Truman dubbed the do-nothing Congress of 1947-1949.
By July of last year, six months after the inception of the 112th Congress, congressional scholar Norman Ornstein was already calling it the “Worst. Congress. Ever.”. The bipartisan squabbling has been the main reason this Congress has failed to pass almost any legislation. Obviously, our leaders in Congress need to relearn — or be educated for the first time — about negotiation and compromise as leadership tools. Without these, nothing will get done.
But there are other factors that contribute to this do-less-than-nothing Congress. While not passing legislation, they aren’t simply sitting around — at least not all of the time. The modus operandi in Congress this past year and a half has not been to pass bills but to repeal them.
To date, the Republican leadership in Congress has attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, now more commonly known as Obamacare, 33 times. These votes are a waste of time — the Republican dominated House has and will continue to vote to repeal the measure, thus showing their constituents that they, too, want to keep healthcare choices in the hands of greedy insurance companies and keep women’s health rights limited. But the Democratic Senate will not repeal health care, and President Obama would veto a repeal anyway. So the House measures do absolutely nothing. If this is the record that Republican incumbents are running on, it is really no record at all. I would like to see from my candidates some evidence of anything they have actually done to attempt to improve life for the American people. Not to mention that, according to CBS, the repeal attempts cost taxpayers nearly $50 million.
One of the most notable bills that Congress failed to pass this year was the Veterans Jobs Corp Act of 2012, which would increase job training and hiring for veterans. The bill is supported by most major veterans advocacy groups, and in general, most Americans support increased work for veterans, who suffer from higher unemployment rates than the population as a whole.
Like most legislation during the 112th Congress, this bill was rejected along party lines. Republicans first voted to make the bill require 60 votes in order to be passed due to budgetary concerns although the bill would have passed with the normally required simple majority. The next vote was along party lines as well, and the bill was rejected. So tell me again, what record are Republican incumbents running on?
I see a record of congressmen who took too many vacations, working only 41 days out of the first 127 of this Congress. I see a Senate that has for far too long been using the filibuster as a tool to make political speeches and kill bills, rather than to encourage open discourse. I see congressmen who, by the time of their swearing-ins, are less than two years from re-election and already focused on the campaign. Re-elect your incumbent representatives if you think they’ll do a better job this time around, but don’t try voting on their records — you won’t find them.
Jessica Littman is deputy opinion editor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.