The 113th Congress still has a ways to go before becoming the worst Congress ever. The good news is that they have yet to destroy the economy, further lower our global credit rating, halt job creation, or nearly breach the debt ceiling. Is a do-nothing Congress really that bad of a thing? The following four items Congress as managed to do by doing nothing may be an indicator of the good and the bad to come.
1. Number Of Laws Passed
The 112th Congress was continuously scorned for the lack of laws passed during its two-year session from 2011-2013. They passed merely 220 laws which is the least amount of laws passed since Congress started keeping track. Now it is said that the 113th could do even worse in this area, because "Just 15 bills have become law this year, compared to 23 over the same period in 2011".
While many argue that this is a problem, I don't necessarily consider this to be indicative of a bad Congress. Less productive? Sure. Many Americans likely believe that this is due to a broken government. But a broken government is different from a divided and gridlocked government.
Some may even argue that the lack of laws passed is a good thing. Gridlock has made it harder for Congress to impede on the rights of the people and to regulate the market. The truth is, legislative stalemates are going to be the norm as long as different parties control the House and Senate.
Others might have found solace in Congress' poor record if any of the 15 laws passed were significant, but this does not seem to be so.
2. Immigration Reform
The biggest triumph of the 113th Congress thus far is the immigration reform bill, championed by the "Gang of Eight." With a 68-32 vote, the immigration-reform bill passed through the Senate and was snail-mailed to the House of Representatives, where it appears to have hit hit a brick wall.
While it is encouraging to at least see the bill get through the Senate, there is doubt as to whether or not the House will agree upon immigration reform in this session. Many House Republicans claim that their role in this session of Congress is to prevent the Democratic agenda from happening. But immigration reform is not a partisan issue — almost everyone believes in some sort of solution. The question dividing Congress is what kind of reform we should have, and how it should be implemented.
3. Student Loan Rates
Despite a number of bills proposed by both the Senate and House, Congress decided to take the entire July 4 week off (quite a weekend) rather than vote or even debate the topic of student-loan rates. Due to the do-nothingness of this Congress, student loan rates have in fact doubled from 3.4 to 6.8%.
Many observers believe the student loan rate hikes to be a bad thing, but others believe that there are actually benefits to "6.8 Day." About 9.4 billion students that take out new loans will see their rates double. But it is important to realize that students with current loans are not going to receive increased rates for the same loan, as many believe.
In short, higher student loan rates will be a good thing in the long run because their is strong evidence that cheap student aid contributes to increased college tuition rates. Higher rates means that tuition goes down, costing students (and the parents that fund them) less in the long run.
4. The Farm Bill Fiasco
Although divided government can be useful by balancing out the different parties' agendas and forcing compromise, the collapse of the Farm Bill has perhaps set the new record for do-nothingness in Congress. In order to do more of nothing, 60 House Republicans turned on the Farm Bill, supported by their own House leaders. They did this because they thought that more cuts could be made by joining with House Democrats, who thought that too many cuts were made on the bill — thus destroying the prospects of any meaningful reform in this area.