July 1, 2013
The U.S. Capitol is cloaked in couds. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)
The U.S. Capitol is cloaked in clouds. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Mark Murray throws some numbers at us today about the possibility that the 113th Congress could be even more ineffective than the embarrassingly bad 112th. For one thing, they’ve only managed to pass 15 laws so far — that’s about a third fewer than the historically poor pace of the 112th Congress.

Conservatives at this point will probably want to jump in and complain that there’s a liberal bias to that measure. In some ideal world, perhaps — but surely conservatives would love to pass laws, say, repealing Obamacare. But that’s not happening, either. More generally, conservatives surely do not believe that public policy is currently perfect. Want to change it? That means passing laws — whether to expand what government does or to contract it.

As to the problem: Yes, there’s divided government. But political scientists have found that divided government isn’t necessarily an impediment to legislative productivity.

No, the problem is actually pretty simple. It’s not, overall, a dysfunctional Congress; it’s a dysfunctional House.  Sure, the Senate has plenty of inefficiencies, but it’s the House now which really just can’t do much of anything. It’s pretty simple: most Republicans are either hostile to the entire idea of finding compromises with Democrats or are terrified of other conservatives who hate compromise; and, at the same time Republicans aren’t unified enough to be able to pass very much in the House on their own. There’s a lot more to say about it, but that’s really the bottom line: They aren’t going to compromise and they can’t get anything done without compromising.

Which pretty much means that nothing happens without a deadline that creates terrible, immediate consequences for inaction.