Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared on Hugh Hewitt’s conservative talk-radio show yesterday, and assured the audience that “there will be no hearings and no votes” on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
Moments later, however, the Republican leader was eager to boast about all of the things he and his Senate GOP majority have been able to accomplish.
“[Y]ou know, this has been an incredibly productive new Senate majority. The American people, even though they chose divided government by having a Democrat in the White House and Republican House and Senate, we’re not saying they didn’t want us to do anything. They were saying, ‘Why don’t you look for things you can agree on and do those?’”
As proof of the Republican Congress’ “incredible” productivity, McConnell quickly pointed to the Keystone XL pipeline, which was vetoed by President Obama. The Senate Majority Leader immediately added, “We put the repeal of Obamacare on his desk. We put defund Planned Parenthood on his desk*.” Neither became law.
It’s occasionally hard to know whether McConnell actually listens to his own talking points. The Kentucky Republican had just said that Congress has been getting things done because voters urged GOP lawmakers “to look for things you can agree on and do those.” In his next breath, McConnell pointed to deeply divisive proposals that policymakers didn’t agree on and which weren’t signed into law.
In fairness, McConnell eventually pointed to some notable bills that actually succeeded, including a highway bill, and bill related to opioid abuse that’s stuck in the Republican-led House.
But the senator’s boasts got me thinking: has Congress been incredibly productive? Perhaps now is a good time to update an old chart.
Long-time readers may recall this image from a couple of years ago, charting congressional productivity. The 112th Congress (2011-2012) broke the record for passing the fewest bills into law since clerks started keeping track several generations ago, and the 113th Congress (2013-2014) came close.
The current 114th Congress (2015-2016) has fared even worse, though there’s still time for the Republican House and Senate to narrow the gap. That said, there’s not that much time – Congress still plans to take several months off this year, and many GOP House members are pushing to scrap the post-election, lame-duck session altogether.
In other words, there’s still a chance this Congress will be the least productive in modern history, and even if it manages to avoid the record, it’s on track to be among the worst.
McConnell very likely has a defense: his Senate has been “incredibly productive,” even if Congress hasn’t been. It’s not a horrible pitch, I suppose, though it is a tough sell – if the Senate that can’t bother to consider a qualified Supreme Court nominee also can’t pass bills that become law, perhaps bragging about its productivity isn’t such a good idea.
* Disclosure: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece.