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Richard N.
Democrat MN 8

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  • The Most Unaccomplished Congress in the History of This Country

    by Representative Richard M. Nolan

    Posted on 2013-12-12

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    NOLAN. Mr. Speaker, Members of the House, we are in the closing hours of the first year of the 113th Congress, and the pundits who examine Congresses past and present have concluded that this is the most unaccomplished Congress in the history of the country.

    We have passed a total of 56 bills here in this Congress. The fact is, we have taken 239 days off, and we have worked 133 days. And let's be honest with ourselves here: those 133 days often included a Monday or a Tuesday where we came in at 6:30 in the evening and took a handful of votes on some noncontroversial issues. Where most of us come from, that is not a day's work.

    And by the same token, more often than not, we left on a Thursday or a Friday, somewhere after taking a few votes that morning, and then heading back to wherever we were headed.

    Back in 1948, Harry Truman got elected President of the United States by campaigning against the do-nothing 80th Congress in 1948. Well, guess what, that Congress passed over 900 bills. And we are looking at 56 here at the halfway mark? I cannot begin to imagine how history is going to evaluate this Congress. The Wall Street Journal said: This Congress is long on partisanship, indecision, and brinksmanship.

    Others have constantly referred to the fact that most of what is done here and considered here in the past year has been political posturing in preparation for the next election.

    {time} 1045 To be fair, we have accomplished some things here: the middle-class tax cut, Hurricane Sandy relief, the Violence Against Women Act. We passed a couple of appropriations bills, and we may be on the brink here of actually passing a budget bill, which would be most important and quite an accomplishment. Not to mention, we formally recognized Soap Box Derby Day, and we have made it possible for hunters to buy their duck stamps online.

    Mr. Speaker, the fact is that we are not getting the job done. And the fact also remains that, in this country, the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class in this country is getting crushed. We are looking at large deficits and broken priorities and a broken government, and we are not addressing those issues of our time.

    I did a little research. I have the unique perspective of having served some 32 years ago, and at that time we had between 7,000 and 8,000 subcommittee, full committee, conference committee hearings, markups, and meetings. This Congress, by contrast, has had 500, and most of those were procedural and Rules Committee meetings.

    The Speaker himself said that we need to return to regular order in this country if we are going to get things done. ``Regular order,'' for those who don't know, means going to work 5 days a week, like everybody else in America. It means working full days. It [[Page H7698]] means fully engaging the subcommittees and full committees and all the Members of the Congress, because when we do that, that is when we get things done. When we sit down and we have open, bipartisan discussions, everybody gets their amendment, everybody gets an opportunity to exhaust all the arguments, everybody gets a vote. That is how people come together. That is how you get things done. That is how you fix things, and that is the way the Congress operated for several hundred years. That is not the way it is operating today.

    Mr. Speaker, my fellow colleagues, if we are going to get things done and reverse the terrible reputation of this Congress, I implore the Speaker and the leadership and all of the Members to demand that, starting in January of next year, we restore regular order, we go to work 5 days a week, and we employ the subcommittee and the full committee process that has worked so well for so many hundreds of years in this country, because that is how we get things done. That is how we fix things here in this country. That is how we get our economy back on a pro-growth trajectory, and that is how we restore the people's confidence in what is now a broken government and a broken Congress.


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