With Thursday's swearing in of the 113th Congress, many Americans are asking themselves a simple question: Will the new Congress be any better?
If it's anything like the 112th Congress, the answer does not look good.
In terms of passing bills having them signed into law, the 112th Congress was the least productive legislature in our history—by far. The 112th passed only 219 pieces of legislation in it's two years in the Capitol. By comparison, the 111th Congress, which was also considered an extremely unproductive governing body, passed 383 bills.
As Ezra Klein pointed out in an op-ed for Bloomberg.com Wednesday, the 112th was nearly responsible for a trifecta of disastrous outcomes. 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)". Perhaps it was this reckless governance that had something to do with the approval rating of the 112th Congress dropping to an all-time low of 10% in both February and August, according to Gallup.
"The overarching strategy [of Republicans in Congress] to thwart all things Obama was to eventually thwart Obama himself, fulfilling what Senate Minority Mitch McConnell once referred to as his top priority," Klein said on Thursday night's Hardball. "If the overarching strategy was to make nothing happen in Washington and have people take it out on the Democrats, that didn’t quite work out for them."
So, what does the ineptitude of the 112th Congress portend for the incoming 113th installment of the U.S. legislative branch? Let's start with the fact that a politically weakened Boehner was re-elected as Speaker of the House. The Ohio Republican garnered 220 votes, enough to hold his position, despite some resistance from the Tea Party faction of his party. In fact, Rep. Louie Gohmert,R-Texas, and Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., cast their votes for outgoing Rep Allen West, R-Fla., the conservative firebrand who was defeated back on Nov. 6.
"What today’s vote tells us is that Boehner is going to have a very tough time moving forward controlling his caucus and they showed that today, many of them are willing to vote against him," said the National Review's Robert Costa on Hardball. Costa did actually retain a shred of optimism for the 113th Congress, pointing out that Republicans did in fact re-elect Boehner despite the opposition from the conservative wing of his party. He also pointed to the fact that "85 members of his House Republican caucus voted to support the Senate fiscal cliff deal", something that was bi-partisan in nature.
Costa's glass might be half full, but Klein admitted that he "pretty much doesn't have any water in my glass at all" at this point. "If this fiscal cliff deal is what we are calling success now where we just create traps for ourselves and almost walk into them and then create another one for two months later, that is not a good way to govern," Klein concluded.