As members of the 111th Congress leave town for the Christmas holiday, it’s a little sobering that despite the appearance and reality of partisan gridlock, the outgoing Congress was among the most productive in decades. A partial listing of legislative accomplishments:
health care reform
hate crimes legislation
credit card reform
student loan reform
pay discrimination legislation
US automaker bailout
the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
a 2% 2011 payroll tax reduction
food safety legislation
repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
health care and compensation for 9/11 responders
Even for those of us who were frustrated that much of this legislation didn’t go far enough, it’s hard to argue that the 111th Congress was unproductive. Whether the 112th Congress, with the House of Representatives under Republican Party control will move the ball forward or backward is an open question. The most obvious loser in terms of political clout in the coming Congress will likely be Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic Party House colleagues.
House Democrats in the 111th Congress passed a lot of legislation and, rightly or wrongly, left House Republicans out of the picture completely. John Boehner and the new Republican leadership in the 112th Congress will likely take a similar approach to crafting legislation and leave Democrats out of their deliberations.
Deal-making by President Obama with Republicans during the recently concluded “lame-duck” session of Congress will likely be the model for moving forward with legislation over the next two years. Conference committees set up to reconcile differing versions of legislation will likely be where the action is, and it will be the Democrat controlled Senate and the White House holding the only cards in negotiating with Republicans.