113th 'Broken' Congress Least Productive in History

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Tuesday, 03 Dec 2013 07:13 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The 113th Congress has passed only 55 laws this year, making it the least productive in history, due to the partisan stalemate over spending and other issues, according to The New York Times.

In their defense, House Republican leaders say 149 bills sent to the Senate this year still are awaiting action, including a number that have bipartisan support such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

For its part, the Democratic-controlled Senate has sent the House a massive farm bill, a comprehensive immigration-reform measure, and an Internet sales tax provision that are awaiting action.

While bills sit, House Republicans have tried to focus public attention on Obamacare problems, using committee hearings to air their distaste with their healthcare-reform law rather than shift the spotlight to contentious legislative business, the Times reported.

Wisconsin Republican Rep. Reid Ribble told the Times that his constituents do not want him to be overly aggressive in writing laws and that focusing on Obamacare has demonstrated the folly of big government.

But Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland says, "Republicans are using their political attacks on the Affordable Care Act as cover to do nothing else."

Both sides hold out hope of reaching modest agreement on spending levels for the next two years. A budget deal by Dec, 13, setting spending and tax limits, would allow time for the House and Senate to pass a final spending agreement. But if that doesn't happen by Jan. 15, another government shutdown may be in the offing, the Times reported.

Republican Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania told the Times that the differences among lawmakers over spending and other issues "speaks to the larger dysfunction in Washington right now."

"Washington is largely broken," he said.

High on the list of bills Arkansas Republican Rep. Tim Griffin wants passed is the farm bill. But Democrats say they will vote for it only without deep cuts in nutrition programs such as food stamps and school lunches.

"If they want my vote, they ought to stop beating up on poor people. I don't think it's too much to ask to have a farm bill that doesn't increase hunger in America," said Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern.

The House and Senate remain wide apart on support for food stamps. The Senate bill includes $4 billion in cuts to the program, while a Republican measure in the House cuts $40 billion.

The farm bill also is important because if Congress fails to pass it by the end of the year, milk prices could soar, since the measure includes a system that has kept dairy prices in check for decades.

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