Congress is close to wrapping up one of its least productive sessions in recent memory, as the House and Senate have passed a scant number of bills compared with other non-election years, and President Obama has signed the fewest measures into law in at least two decades.
Through Nov. 30, the House had passed 326 bills, the fewest in at least 10 non-election years, according to annual tallies in the Congressional Record. The Senate had approved 368 measures, the fewest since 1995.
By comparison, the House approved 970 bills in 2009 and 1,127 in 2007. The Senate totals for those years were 478 and 621, respectively. (Both chambers are expected to pass more bills before adjourning this month, but probably not enough to change the overall picture.)
And the White House need not fear an ink shortage — Obama had signed only 62 bills into law through November. The last time there was a new Republican majority in the House and a Democrat in the White House, 1995, President Bill Clinton signed 88 measures.
Deja vu all over again. We've seen this movie before here in Michigan in the run-up to 2010, but don't forget that it was happening in other states as well (ask Rendell). One can only hope that we are not a leading indicator in this regard, but if we are, here is basically how it's going to go:
Republicans obstruct the government when the Democrats hold any branch of power, refusing to compromise on any and all legislation. They then turn around and proclaim that government just doesn't work and needs to "get out of the way", people get discouraged at the constant bickering and lack of progress and don't show up at the polls, Republicans then take back power, and suddenly the government IS the answer to all our problems, and it will be used to further the right-wing agenda only.
Republicans are making the most of their majority in Michigan's state government, approving an above-average number of new laws in the first 11 months of the state Legislature's 2011-12 session.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley have combined to sign 231 new public acts since taking office in January. The bills were sent their way by a Legislature that has Republican majorities in both the House and Senate.
The new laws affect a broad range of topics from the state budget to schools to how financially struggling local governments are managed. About 95 percent of the new laws come from legislation whose primary sponsor was Republican.
Will the voters recognize this pattern? They might. Krugman seems to think that 2012 will be "a year of Republican triumph", but I think he underestimates how deeply unhappy people are with Republican governance out in (some of) the states.
The mood here in Michigan has definitely soured. Wisconsin seems to be on the verge of a rare gubernatorial recall. Kasich in Ohio is suddenly backing down off his previous arrogant bluster. Scott in Florida has poll numbers that are in the dumps, I'm guessing LePage is still down there as well, and on and on... if all these states continue to push an unpopular Republican agenda, perhaps we can hope to see a backlash in the next election.
If not, well, we can't say we weren't warned. You can bet that if the Republicans gain control in DC you will see the same thing happen, and a government that serves their agenda only will be a wonderful working thing indeed. For their friends, anyway.
For you, not so much.