Comment
0
Tweet
0
Print
RSS Feeds

Congress does little of consequence, except argue

Tuesday - 12/24/2013, 3:14am  ET

FILE - In this June 17, 2013, file photo, the U.S. Capitol, with the Senate at right and the House of Representatives at far left, is seen in Washington. Call it a steady diet of gridlock, with Green Eggs and Ham on the side. Congress did not pass White House-backed immigration or gun control legislation in 2013. Or raise the minimum wage. Or approve many other items on President Barack Obama’s agenda. But tea party-inspired House Republicans did propel the country into a 16-day partial government shutdown that cost the still-recovering economy $24 billion by one estimate. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

DAVID ESPO
AP Special Correspondent

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Call it a steady diet of gridlock, with "Green Eggs and Ham" on the side.

Congress did not pass White House-backed immigration or gun control legislation in 2013. Or raise the minimum wage. Or approve many other items on President Barack Obama's agenda.

But tea party-inspired House Republicans did propel the country into a 16-day partial government shutdown that cost the still-recovering economy $24 billion, by one estimate.

Congress didn't repeal the health law known as "Obamacare." Or endorse construction of the proposed Keystone pipeline. Or make it harder for the White House to put costly new federal regulations in place, or accomplish dozens of other measures on the House Republican to-do list.

But Senate Democrats did unilaterally -- arrogantly, Republicans said -- change century-old procedures to weaken the GOP's ability to block confirmation of Obama's appointees.

That, too, was part of a tempestuous year in which lawmakers lurched from showdown to shutdown, with time enough for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to read from the Dr. Seuss classic, "Green Eggs and Ham," as he held the floor around the clock for a day to protest the health law.

"The American people would get better government out of Monkey Island at the local zoo than we're giving them today," said Democratic Rep. John Dingell of Michigan as the government slid into shutdown mode.

"This isn't some damn game," House Speaker John Boehner erupted in frustration at the point of maximum gridlock.

Except that ... baseball had a better year under the Capitol Dome than Republicans, Democrats or Obama.

One bill that made it around the bases to the president's desk specified the size of blanks to be used in stamping National Baseball Hall of Fame memorial coins. And a new bridge over the Mississippi River was named for Stan Musial, a baseball legend admired by Republicans and Democrats alike.

But enough about teamwork.

Fifth-term Sen. John McCain of Arizona referred to some of his uncompromising, younger fellow Republicans as "wacko birds."

One whom he had in mind, Cruz, said, "I don't trust the Republicans. I don't trust the Democrats, and I think a whole lot of Americans likewise don't trust the Republicans or the Democrats because it is leadership in both parties that has got us into this mess."

At year end, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., opined, "Congress is finishing this year less popular than a cockroach."

Among Republicans, Reid's standing might not be even that good.

Reid, as soft-spoken as he is tough-willed, is "going to be remembered as the worst leader of the Senate ever" if he insisted on changing the filibuster procedures, predicted the famously taciturn GOP leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Reid went ahead anyway a few months later, to the anger of Republicans who predicted that Democrats would one day regret their action.

Cockroaches or not, Congress' ratings began the year at basement level, then began boring into bedrock below.

In January, an Associated Press-GfK poll put approval at 17 percent of the country.

By November, after the partial shutdown, a flirtation with an unprecedented U.S. Treasury default, gridlock for months on end and insults aplenty, it stood at 13 percent.

"Enough is enough," judged Barry Black, the Senate chaplain, nine days into the shutdown.

Evidently not.

It went on another week.

The health care law named for Obama was a constant theme, and a clear and present danger, to hear Republicans say it.

"We should not be judged on how many new laws we create. We ought to be judged on how many laws that we repeal," Boehner said as Republicans voted for the 38th and 39th time since 2011 to repeal or otherwise neuter it.

There were yet more to come -- the total reached into the 40s -- leading into the first partial government shutdown in 17 years. It was an event so detrimental to the Republicans' political health that Boehner blamed it on outside tea party groups he said were guilty of "pushing our members into places where they don't want to be."

There were moments of cooperation, between Republicans and Democrats at least, but they were fleeting exceptions to the rule of gridlock.

One, at year's end, undid a portion of widely disliked across-the-board spending cuts that had been put in place because of a 2011 episode of brinkmanship.

Another, passed just before the beginning of the school year, linked student loan interest rates to the financial markets, an approach the White House and Republicans favored as a way to save the government money. Some liberal Democrats opposed it as a burden on future students.

   1 2  -  Next page  >>