May 5, 2007

The Do-Nothing 110th Congress

The Democratic leadership of the 110th Congress promised a change in style and substance from the so-called "do-nothing" 109th. They expanded the work week and laid out an ambitious agenda of legislative priorities that they would accomplish in the first 100 hours of Congress. Democrats almost immediately started hedging their pledges by clarifying that they meant 100 legislative hours, but even that pretense has evaporated. The Washington Post reports that four months after the Democrats took control of Congress, they have accomplished almost nothing:

In the heady opening weeks of the 110th Congress, the Democrats' domestic agenda appeared to be flying through the Capitol: Homeland security upgrades, a higher minimum wage and student loan interest rate cuts all passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

But now that initial progress has foundered as Washington policymakers have been consumed with the debate over the Iraq war. Not a single priority on the Democrats' agenda has been enacted, and some in the party are growing nervous that the "do nothing" tag they slapped on Republicans last year could come back to haunt them. ...

The "Six for '06" policy agenda on which Democrats campaigned last year was supposed to consist of low-hanging fruit, plucked and put in the basket to allow Congress to move on to tougher targets. House Democrats took just 10 days to pass a minimum-wage increase, a bill to implement most of the homeland security recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission, a measure allowing federal funding for stem cell research, another to cut student-loan rates, a bill allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices under Medicare, and a rollback of tax breaks for oil and gas companies to finance alternative-energy research.

The Senate struck out on its own, with a broad overhaul of the rules on lobbying Congress.

Not one of those bills has been signed into law. President Bush signed 16 measures into law through April, six more than were signed by this time in the previous Congress. But beyond a huge domestic spending bill that wrapped up work left undone by Republicans last year, the list of achievements is modest: a beefed-up board to oversee congressional pages in the wake of the Mark Foley scandal, and the renaming of six post offices, including one for Gerald R. Ford in Vail, Colo., as well as two courthouses, including one for Rush Limbaugh Sr. in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

I wrote about this almost four weeks ago, when Congress took their Easter break. The 108th Congress, controlled by Republicans, passed ten substantive bills into law by the end of the first three months of their session. Even the 109th had passed two bills into law of import -- an extension of welfare reform and class-action lawsuit reform, both complex and controversial issues. Even a month past that time in the 110th, the only two pieces of substantive legislation are still a continuing appropriation and an approval of NATO reorganization. The rest is public-relations fluff, as the Post notes.

Of course, this comes as no great surprise. It took the Democrats more than two months to finally settle on an Iraq policy -- after spending the midterms criticizing the Republicans and George Bush for having no plan for the war. For weeks, funding for the troops stalled as the Democrats attempted to float one strategy after another to force the administration to bring troops home without having to assume responsibility for the retreat. While they fumbled that ball all over Capitol Hill, they focused on nothing else -- and it still took them 85 days to produce a funding bill that barely passed each chamber and which everyone knew would get vetoed. Now they're starting all over again, and in the meantime, that 100 hours looks more like 100 weeks of futility.

Ted Kennedy wrote in March that this is the most productive Congress he's seen in 45 years. That either proves that Kennedy has serious memory problems, or that he wants to continue burnishing his credentials as a political hack. This Congress has been just like Kennedy -- all spin and bluster, and no substance at all.


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Can you name a single piece of legislation passed by the Democrats in this congressional session? I didn't think so. Outside of seeking to surrender in Iraq, they've accomplished little to nothing. [Read More]

Comments (9)

Posted by smagar [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 5, 2007 10:09 AM

Memo to the US Army: Please deal publicly with this hamhanded distortion of an analysis by the WaPo.

Point out, publicly and forcefully, as Captain Ed has done here, how the WaPo twisted this to look like bad news, and an indictment of our troops in general.

EMBARASS the WaPo for printing this! If you need an example on how to proceed, look at GEN DeLong's NYT OpEd, which responded to Torquemada Waxman's charges that the military deliberately twisted the Jessica Lynch story. Call out the WaPo publicly.

Not in a Letter to the Editor which the Post will dutifully print, a week from next Saturday, buried underneath a Safeway ad. Hold a press conference, where angry Army Staff reps (with blowups of the distortions in this story on posterboards as a background) use this story as a case study for how the MSM looks for the bad slant in Iraq/Afghanistan stories. The conservative and milblogs will cover it. The Post won't be able to run and hide---as they can from a Letter To The Editor.

Don't fight this PR war the old-fashioned way, because we LOSE when we fight like that! Adapt to the changing media battlefield environment, develop new tactics that exploit our strengths, and EXECUTE!

If you shame enough of the MSMers in public, I suspect that fewer and fewer hit pieces like this will appear. If, on the other hand, the DOD and White House simply respond by turning a fresh cheek for the MSM to smack anew---well, the blows will just keep on coming!

Time to launch a spoiling attack, Army!

Posted by Lightwave [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 5, 2007 10:24 AM

Today's civics lesson:

The same Democrats who in 04' said Bush's re-election amounted to a "failure of mandate" think a one-vote majority in the Senate (and that one vote being independent Joe Lieberman) is somehow a blessing from the American people for radical change. The result, at the WaPo article points out, is the least productive Congress in a generation, if not history. They have quite literally done nothing. You will not see a single passable piece of legislation that doesn't originate from the White House, for that is how weak the Dems are right now.

When I say the Democrats should never be allowed to govern at the Federal level again, this is what I mean. And after '08 they won't be.

Posted by coldoc [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 5, 2007 11:05 AM

Let's hope this Congress is at least a "Do Nothing" Congress. It could easily become a "Do Negative" Congress by repealing the hard-won tax relief and the War on Terror of the previous Republican Congresses. It really torques me that our elected Republican Congress Critters can be stampeded so easily by malicious biased reporting. Have they ever heard of standing on their principles?

Posted by jaeger51 [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 5, 2007 2:36 PM

Why did the Dems think they got a mandate anyway? People voted OUT the current Republicans for not acting like Republicans, not because they wanted socialist surrender monkeys. Even the Dems realize that, that's why all the useless posturing about how they are against the war that doesn't lead to any actual results that they could be blamed for. The elective system is seriously broken if the current politicians are the results we get and people like Gingrich are "unelectable". Somehow we must get the debate back to being about issues and directions and less about American Idol style "marketing" aimed at the shallow and lightly interested.

Posted by Fight4TheRight [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 5, 2007 5:07 PM

Two observations:

1. I imagine it's really hard for the Dems to get anything done when all of them are chairing committees investigating conpiracies, firings, and cover-ups.

2. The reason Teddy Kennedy thinks this is the most productive Congress he can remember, is because since his party is in power, he's actually showing up sober.

Posted by Mwalimu Daudi [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 5, 2007 10:37 PM

Give up public-relations fluff? That would cost the Democrat Party all that lovely hate cash the Nutroots shovels under the door.

Posted by docjim505 [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 6, 2007 6:42 AM

This is politics, where you win points by TALKING, not by doing. Come election time, the dems will crow about all the great things they've done, counting on a compliant media to not ask any awkward questions. And, if there ARE any such questions, they can blame the paucity of solid legislative achievements on Bush.

DOING something will require making tough decisions and pitting various parts of the shaky coalition of interest groups that comprise the democrat base against each other (this is one reason why the dems won't touch real Social Security reform with a ten-foot pole). For a great explanation of why DOING something is bad, see Sergeant Orville King's monologue about "making waves" in the comedy "No Time For Sergeants" (1958).

Posted by unclesmrgol [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 6, 2007 12:27 PM

Maybe the Democrats don't know how to operate the Console of Power. Here are some hints for them:

a) Next to the lever labelled "first 100 hours" are two buttons, one labelled "real time" and the other labelled "legislative time". The button labelled "legislative time" causes time to run 100x slower than the button labelled "real time" because it takes into account weekends and recesses. Depress this button. This causes the entire legislative branch to become encased in a temporal distortion which is unnoticeable to those caught within its perimeter, but highly noticeable to those caught outside.

b) There is another switch off to the side labelled "multitasking", which causes multiple bills to be submitted and under consideration at the same time. Under the Republicans, this switch was set to "enable". Since you don't want to be like the Republicans, be sure to set this switch to "disable".

c) There is a set of radio buttons labelled "pork". Under the Republicans, the "lard" button was depressed. You want to make a difference, so you must either depress the "heavy lard", "medium lean", "lean", or "none" buttons. If you want to guarantee reelection in a way other than establishing safe districts, but don't care about your country as a whole, press "heavy lard", otherwise, choose one of the others.

d) There is a button labelled "veto override". You don't have control of this button -- that capability is reserved to your opponents. Don't even think you can push it.

Posted by thebastidge | May 7, 2007 1:37 AM

Sometimes I'm not so sure I WANT congress to be 'productive', since they're usually being 'productive' in the wrong direction.