Congress Excels at Not Getting Things Done

Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Vote Spicoli 2012. Photo: Universal Pictures

An analysis of congressional records shows that the current Congress has spent more than 140 days in session, which is similar to previous terms, but it’s perfected the art of not passing legislation. Only 132 measures have made it through both the House and the Senate so far; to catch up to the last term’s legislators, they would have to pass 251 laws in the next six months. Sure, that sounds bad, but if we were talking about a bunch of high-school seniors, not elected officials, and the biggest potential consequence was failing calculus, not ruining the country for ourselves and future generations, we’d definitely find their Jeff Spicoli act charming.

CNN reports that, in 2009, Congress was actually quite productive, passing major legislation like the health-care reform law. However, the 2010 midterm elections brought in a new crop of Republicans who were intent on cutting down on what they see as wasteful federal spending and were thus less willing to compromise. Of course, each party blames the other side for Congress’s ineffectiveness, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi recently calling on House Speaker John Boehner to cancel future recesses, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell deeming Democrats “irresponsible” for not passing a budget.

Aside from bickering, there’s another area where Congress is still highly effective. One fifth of the laws passed in this term were to approve official names for post offices. Thankfully, no matter how bad things get, Americans won’t be forced to refer to the post office as “that place where you mail things.”

Congress Excels at Not Getting Things Done