President Obama has indicated that his 2012 re-election campaign will focus on a “do-nothing” Congress. Now a Washington Times analysis finds that 2011 was, in fact, one of the most inactive congressional years ever. Congress passed only 80 bills — the fewest since 1947, when such records first began being kept — and many of those bills were non-substantive. The House was far more active than the Senate, which experienced the most futile, unproductive legislative year ever.
I don’t think you can assess the performance of a Congress by simply counting how many new laws were enacted. Quality, not quantity, should be the measuring rod. Yet even by that measure, our Congress has been a colossal failure. Last year saw the United States lose its AAA credit rating and rack up enormous deficits that are adding to our already staggering national debt. How did our legislative leaders respond? They created an ad hoc “supercommittee” that allowed them to punt on the issue, the “supercommittee” couldn’t reach agreement, and as a result another year slid by without anything meaningful being done to address our headlong rush to fiscal ruin.
No rational person can defend the pathetic performance of our Congress. I’m not sure, however, that President Obama stands to benefit much by pointing out how little has been accomplished. He’s the leader of the government, after all, and he ran in 2008 as someone who could bring people together. That hasn’t happened. Emphasizing that Congress is hopelessly deadlocked and inert, while true, just reflects poorly on President Obama’s leadership abilities. He hasn’t been able to forge a consensus, build support in the country as a whole, or find an alternate way to deal with urgent problems like the debt. If President Obama is just going to throw up his hands, why should we return him to office?