113th Congress: With Fiscal Cliff 2013 Looming, Early Signs of Bipartisanship Give Us Hope


Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of articles covering progress of the lame duck session of Congress.

If the just completed first week of the lame duck session of Congress is any indication, the 19th lame duck session will meet historical expectations of accomplishing nothing major.

Any sign of bipartisan cooperation will be significant. We also don’t know if any deal on averting the fiscal cliff will be reached, nor do we know if Senate hearings on Benghazi will set off fireworks. If any or all of those happen, the achievements of this session will be some of the most significant ever.

So what has taken place? The standard legislative process of bills being introduced or reported out of committee continues as do resolutions honoring individuals, organizations, and special “weeks.”

Eight bills were sent to the President. None of these bills were controversial, and they passed both chambers with wide margins of support from both parties. The most noteworthy of these was a bill forbidding U.S. airlines to participate in the European Union’s emission control program. The others concerned setting the 2012 cost of living increase for veteran pensions, construction of a natural gas pipeline in New York, consolidation of Congressional Budget Office reporting requirements for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, establishing a Mark Twain commemorative coin, minor amendments to a laboratory certification program and whistleblower protection act, and setting a sunset of 2020 for the Spam, Spyware and Fraud Enforcement with Enforcers Beyond Borders Act.

There were other signs of improving bipartisanship. On a vote of 365 to 43, the House sent a bill establishing normal trade relations with Russia to the Senate and in the Senate, cloture on a bill opening up more land for hunting, fishing, and shooting passed by a vote of 92 to 5.

During the 112th Congress, even non-controversial bills have been held up by partisan bickering. Not counting the eight bills sent to the President this week, only 196 have made it to the Oval Office the past two years. Is a 4% increase in one week a positive sign? I think it is.

Congress is now in recess until November 27th. In four weeks, the 112th Congress will be history. How it will be remembered can’t be determined just yet.