Political Animal


January 03, 2013 10:40 AM The Wile E. Coyote Congress

By Ed Kilgore

This isn’t real news, but Ezra Klein’s scorching documentation in his Bloomberg column of exactly how bad the just-ended 112th Congress has been deserves repetition and reflection:

What’s the record of the 112th Congress? Well, it almost shut down the government and almost breached the debt ceiling. It almost went over the fiscal cliff (which it had designed in the first place). It cut a trillion dollars of discretionary spending in the Budget Control Act and scheduled another trillion in spending cuts through an automatic sequester, which everyone agrees is terrible policy. It achieved nothing of note on housing, energy, stimulus, immigration, guns, tax reform, infrastructure, climate change or, really, anything. It’s hard to identify a single significant problem that existed prior to the 112th Congress that was in any way improved by its two years of rule.
The 112th, which was gaveled into being on Jan. 3, 2011, by newly elected House Speaker John Boehner, wasn’t just unproductive in comparison with the 111th. It was unproductive compared with any Congress since 1948, when scholars began keeping tabs on congressional productivity….
The 112th found legislating so difficult that lawmakers repeatedly created artificial deadlines for consequences and catastrophes intended to spur them to act. But like Wile E. Coyote with his endless supply of Acme products, when the 112th set a trap, the only sure bet was that it would explode in its collective face, forcing leaders to construct yet another hair- trigger legislative contraption.

And it’s not just progressive wonks who feel that way about the 112th, Ezra notes:

As a result of its good works, the 112th Congress was the least popular since pollsters began keeping score. According to the Gallup Organization, the 112th’s approval rating fell to 10 percent in February 2011 and again in August that year. Those are the lowest readings in Gallup’s 38 years of surveying. When another polling firm, Rasmussen, asked Americans in March 2011 how they’d feel about the U.S. turning into a communist country, 11 percent said they’d approve. So congratulations, 112th: You were, at multiple points, less popular than communism.

While you can argue there’s plenty of blame to go around for this sterling record of substantive and political fecklessness, when you look at the whole mess, it bears the distinctive stamp of House Speaker John Boehner, forever bobbing and weaving to preserve his power with rarely a glance at long-term consequences. Whatever grief the Orange Man gets today in his normally pro-forma re-election as Speaker, he has richly earned.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Domage on January 03, 2013 10:49 AM:

    . . .House Speaker John Boehner, forever bobbing and weaving to preserve his power. . .

    He is trying to preserve his POSITION. Even Boehner knows he has no power. That has been amply demonstrated to him over and over, most recently with the very public failure of Plan B.

    Cantor and the Teahadists have all the power. Boehner is in it for the short-term public exposure and the long-term money making of becoming a lobbyist once he ends his Congressional "career."

  • c u n d gulag on January 03, 2013 10:59 AM:

    Oh, he'll get reelected Speaker, alright!

    Because no one in their right feckin' mind wants that feckin' job, with the feckin' Republicans still in charge of feckin' the House - not even the already, and really out-of-their-feckin' mind's, Republican Congressvarmints already in there.

    So, 'Weepin' John, and Your Band of Willing Nihilists,' since you probably won't change your tune much in the 113th, can you at least share some Kleenex with us, so we can cry as you continue in your quest to turn us into "The Dis-united Banana Republic of Armed Racist, Misogynistic, Xenophobic, and/or Homophobic, Jesus-freak, Lunatics," under GOD, with neither liberty nor justice, nor mercy or compassion, for anyone?
    Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition!

  • Peter C on January 03, 2013 11:00 AM:

    I confess, I've often harbored a suspicion that the 2010 elections were quietly 'fixed' in order to put the brakes on the Democratic agenda and reap the benefits of redistricting. Until we have VVPAT voting, we need to mobilize for each election and watch the polls carefully.

  • ANM on January 03, 2013 11:04 AM:

    when you look at the whole mess, it bears the distinctive stamp of House Speaker John Boehner, forever bobbing and weaving to preserve his power with rarely a glance at long-term consequences.

    "Hey for Bobbing John and his Tea-land quorum!"

  • Josef K on January 03, 2013 11:11 AM:

    Let's not forget one small fact: Boehner is #3 in line for the Presidency should anything...unfortunate...happen to both President Obama and Vice-President Biden.

    Not suggesting he or anyone in his conference are planning on that unfortunate something actually happening. But then again, I doubt they'd shed many tears if it did.

  • Josef K on January 03, 2013 11:14 AM:

    That said, anyone have a line yet on when the Speaker's ballot (or whatever they're calling the voting mechanism) will be cast? Boehner still going to run, or do the rational thing and run away?

  • Zorro on January 03, 2013 11:24 AM:

    Eric Cantor (or John Boehner, your choice)... SUPER genius...


  • jpeckjr on January 03, 2013 3:38 PM:

    We have all misunderstood the Republican Vision for Governing. Although the American people as a whole expect our legislatures to do something, the Republican Vision for Governing is to do as little as possible. How can Big Government get smaller if legislatures keep doing things? Do nothing and, at least, Big Government won't get any bigger.

    We have also misunderstood the Republican Vision for Raising Money to Run Campaigns. How can money to run campaigns be raised if problems are solved? Donors give more when they are afraid of the problems than when they are optimistic about solutions. So, run a campaign based on how terrifying the problems are, raise lots of money, get elected, and do not solve the problems, so you can run the same campaign next time.

    An unproductive Congress serves both Visions. I think that clears everything up.