4:15pm December 16, 2011

Is the 112th Congress the Worst in History?


And you thought the height of partisanship in Congress was during the Tom DeLay years during the presidency of George W. Bush?

Think again.

The height of blind partisan politics is right now.  What has resulted is a Congress barely able to perform basic legislative functions — much less solving major issues.  As the first session of the 112th Congress comes to a welcomed close, the three bright and shining failures of the year are clear:

1. The April showdown that brought the federal government hours from shutdown;

2. The failure to routinely raise the debt ceiling in August; and

3. The debt Super Committee.

The 112th Congress did harm to the economy on two of those occasions. The first time was after the debt deal back and fourth in August.  During that failure of leadership, American markets saw a historic drop.  The moment was topped by the United States losing its AAA credit rating.  The folks at Standard & Poor’s figured out what participants in the poll awarding the 112th Congress with the lowest approvals in history did: That the institution in its current form is unable to carry out routine legislative action without drama.

Tossing a country in recession towards the brink of default wasn’t enough.  From that deal another failure was born: The Debt Super Committee.  After wasting two months of time, resources and staff, six Democrats and six Republicans re-affirmed last month what was already suspected in microcosmic form: That the dysfunction would continue right to the very end of the year.

Predictably, polls show the level of respect for Congress is at the lowest point in history. Who is surprised? Back in late December 2010 in the last days of the 111th Congress, the “lowest approval” number was 14%. That “all time low” was easily topped  in October when the 112th Congress received only a 9% approval rating of those polled.

A U.S. House that found time to pass “In God We Trust” as the national motto — something that had already been done in 1956 — could not figure out how to avoid damaging the nation’s credit rating.  Over on the Senate side, 60 remained the new 51 — the new number of “a majority.”  Translation: The Senate was only slightly less dysfunctional than the House.

Politic365 asked Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who has been in the institution since 1977, if this was one of the worst Congresses.

“I think it is the worst I’ve seen.  The Democrats have hardly been willing to debate important bills because they’re so afraid of difficult amendments,” said Hatch who has been in the Senate since 1977.

Hatch has a point: Election politics and PR has controlled almost everything in Congress.  ”Both sides can be at fault here. But they have the majority and control and they haven’t been willing to bring up difficult issues that need to be brought up,” Hatch added.

In April they came hours away from shutting the government down. In August they failed to simply raise the debt ceiling, choosing instead to become wrapped up in an extortion scheme driven by hyper-partisan all-or-nothing confrontation.  Real life drama such as confronting the 15 trillion dollar deficit, 49 million Americans in poverty or 14 million Americans unemployed fell back into obscurity.

“This House has failed to take up a single major bill this year,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) on the House floor this week.  “The do-nothing 112th Congress has no major bill to its credit,” and has been focused off on “side issues,” she added.  Other members felt that it wasn’t just Congress but something bigger.

“I think it’s not just Congress but the entire political process. People look at TV debates and what they see here and they just see dysfunctionality,” said Rep. Allen West (R-FL).  ”It’s amazing to me that once upon a time I was part of an organization with the highest approval ratings in the country and now ‘m part of an organization that has the lowest approval ratings in the country,” observed West, who was in the Army for 22 years.

By July, House Majority Leader Cantor was unable to hold a public town hall without protesters and police present. Only four months after the newly controlled GOP House took charge, overflow crowds protesting Medicare cuts showed at Rep. Paul Ryan’s town halls.  Ryan was using back door exits from his town halls soon after the “Ryan Budget” was debuted.  This week Ryan announced a bi-partisan approach to Medicare with Democrat Sen. Rony Wyden. Will the bi-partisan effort succeed?  Or will 2012 be like 2011?

Lauren Victoria Burke writes on Congress and politics from Capitol Hill in Washington. She is the creator of the blog Crewof42 which focuses on African American members of Congress.  

About the Author

Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke is an opinion journalist, comms expert and political analyst focused on justice reform policy. She created Crewof42.com, a blog that covers the work of Black members of Congress, in 2009. Ms. Burke was a staffer for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and Director of Communications for Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN). She has had a very diverse career in politics and media and appears regularly on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin, Hardball and Up on MSNBC, WVON in Chicago, WURD in Philadelphia and WOL and WHUR in Washington, D.C. She is currently the Managing Editor of Politic365 and a contributing writer for TheRoot and NBC Black where she writes opinion and analysis. Additionally, Ms. Burke has been a contract photographer for Associated Press since 2004. She has authored three books of photography including two on President Obama's 2008 campaign for the presidency and one with Marvel Comics publisher Stan Lee. Ms. Burke was born in the Bronx, New York and grew up on Long Island. She holds a B.A. in History from The American University. Here e-mail is: LBurke007@gmail.com. Twitter: @LVBurke. Instagram: LVB325.



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  1. Erich Hicks

    P. O. Box 6265

    Woodland Hills, California 91365


    Hello Politic 365

    Lauren Victoria Burke

    News Tip

    The United States Congress and Senate are preparing legislation, House Bill # HR 1022 and Senate Bill # 544 to recognize the Buffalo Soldiers…see end of letter…

    My name is Erich Martin Hicks, author of the untold novel, Rescue at Pine Ridge, the first generation of Buffalo Soldiers. The novel’s website is: http://www.rescueatpineridge.com This is the greatest story of Black Military History…5 stars Amazon internationally, and Barnes & Noble. The Youtube commercials are: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iD66NUKmZPs and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVslyHmDy9A&fe… To review the book signing and great conversation, please visit the novels’ FACEBOOK page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Buffalo-Soldier-Nov

    Rescue at Pine Ridge is the story of the 9th Cavalry from its Congressional conception in 1866, to the rescue of the famed 7th Cavalry by the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers in 1890. The 7th Cavalry was entrapped again, after the Little Big Horn Massacre, fourteen years later, the day after the Wounded Knee Massacre. If it wasn’t for the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, there would of been a second massacre of the 7th Cavalry. This story has ‘never’ been told in length until now.

    The 7th was arrogant in their duties, with revenge in their hearts for ‘Little Big Horn’, and this is proven the next day after the Wounded Knee Massacre, when they rode into a trap in the box canyon, because they ‘did not’ send out scouts, to scout the area, for if they did, they wouldn’t have ridden into a trap.

    Revenge is a word, ‘that’ does not stand in military terms, as a military action, therefore; when a military unit commits revenge, there ‘is’ no honor! Revenge is the only word you could put on this stupidity of killing 350 old women, old men and children with rifles, gatling guns and hotchkiss cannons which fire one explosive shrapnel shall as fast the the cannon could be loaded, up to 2 miles. What honor is there in such an action? Therefore, this story to facilitate the rescinding of the Medals of Honor of the 7th Cavalry for the Wounded Knee Massacre (battle, in military terms).

    More Medals of Honor were given to the 7th Cavalry for Wounded Knee, for revenge, then all America’s troops received for Normandy, D-Day, WW-II. This story is about, brutality, compassion, revenge, bravery, heroism and gallantry.

    The story embodies the Native Americans, Outlaws, and African-American/Black Soldiers, from the south to the north, in the days of the Native American Wars with the approaching Untied States of America.

    As you’ll see on the Rescue at Pine Ridge website, renown educational institutions have purchased the novel, i.e., USC-University of Southern California, Xavier University, Louisiana and etc.

    I am available for speaking engagements regarding the novel, Rescue at Pine Ridge and the history of the Buffalo Soldiers, four generations.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at this e-mail address, or through our contact information below.

    Below are:

    Press Release Link regarding novel: http://www.prlog.org/11255655-buffalo-soldier-nov

    Press Release on Erich Hicks: http://www.prlog.org/11222097-first-african-ameri

    NOTE: Congresswoman Jackie Speier, along with Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Congressman Geoff Davis and now Senator Dianne Feinstein are preparing legislation to recognize the Buffalo Soldiers, Colonel Charles Young and the 25th Infantry as being the first National Park Rangers; Yellowstone; Yosemite; Kings; Sequoia and Volcano National Park in Hawaii, therefore; please recognize the ones that lead that path, by publishing this story, and telling family and friends to purchase the novel in support of this unknown history, “Rescue at Pine Ridge”, the original Buffalo Soldiers, the first generation… Rescue at Pine Ridge concludes with the prestigious duty the 9th Cavalry received, for historical fact, no other military unit to date, has received such prestigious duty as, Presidential Parade Escort Duty and Presidential Guard Duties for accomplishments, which lead to the troopers mentioned above accomplishments as the nations first, National Park Rangers.

    Please publicize my novel in all your publications of the Politic 365 and Affiliates, print and electronic media.

    Thank you in advance for your time and endeavors.

  2. Gues

    All of the problems that you have described with this Congress have resulted in less spending. I say "hooaah" 112th, congratulations on doing what voters in 2010 wanted you to do: stop the insane free for all of 111th!

  3. [...] the markets plummet over the summer.  Worst Congress in history?  See this article in POLITIC365. http://politic365.com/2011/12/16/is-the-112th-congress-the-worst-in-history/ Be Sociable, Share! Tweet   Related [...]

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