By Veronica Mackey
Members of Congress have called it quits for the next 5 weeks, taking their annual summer vacation. Meanwhile pressing issues like immigration reform, unemployment extension, and the minimum wage go unresolved.
The mad dash out of Washington in the midst of pressing unfinished business only adds to the growing dysfunction in Congress. The picture of a divided House and Senate, failing to do their jobs was evidenced recently on “Meet the Press. ” Several empty seats were shown of members who didn’t even show up to confirm a new ambassador to Russia.
This Congress is on its way to being the most unproductive in history. The Republican-led House and Democrat-led Senate could not be farther apart. Meanwhile, the president is estepping the stalemate, using his authority of executive orders to get things done.
Republicans are sending mixed messages, opposing nearly everything President Obama or the Senate puts on the table, and at the same time, have filed a lawsuit against Obama for acting on his own.
“Do-Nothing” Congress is a term first coined by President Harry Truman, when he ran for a second term as president in 1948. Frustrated by what he saw as a lack of progress, the Truman remarked, “This country can’t afford another Republican Congress!”
Congress passed more than 900 bills that year. But even that Congress approved nearly seven times more laws than 2014 lawmakers. The current year total so far is 142.
Polls by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal say 3 out of 4 voters agree that Congress hasn’t done much this year. About 50% classify Congress’ record as “very unproductive.”
There is a virtual tie of who Americans want in charge of Congress, with Republicans holding a slight lead—43% to 41%. According to CNN polls, 22% of Americans say the president has not taken enough executive action; about 45% say the president has gone too far.
“I don’t feel good about it at all because about 3.5 million people have yet to get their unemployment extended…We’re just not moving forward on the things people need.” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN). “The president is going out of his way to try and be productive. I wish we could get some action in the House.”
“House Republicans actually got together this week and voted to sue me for taking actions on my own, and then they left town without settling a bunch of unfinished business which matters to working families across America,” President Obama said.
“We’ve come a long way these past five and a half years…Imagine how much stronger our country would be if Congress would just do its job.” He urged Americans to ask their representatives a few questions if they see them in their hometowns during the break: “Ask them why they haven’t passed bills to raise the minimum wage or help with student loans…”
Republicans says it is the Democrats who are holding things up. “We’ve been very productive. We’ve passed about 350 bills and sent them to the Senate,” said Robert Pittenger, (R-North Carolina).
House Republicans did pass a border bill before leaving for recess, but it stands no chance of survival with the Democratic-led Senate, who will vote when they return.
New York Times Washington Bureau Chief Carolyn Ryan said: “I think Republicans are fearful of primary opponents. They don’t want to move toward the middle, so they move to the extreme.” Money is driving the gridlock,” Ryan said. “There is going to be $2 billion in outside spending in Congressional elections.”