After last week's discouraging jobs report, President Obama called for lawmakers to step up and get something done.
"[M]y message to Congress is, get to work," he said over the weekend. "Right now, Congress should pass a bill to help states prevent more layoffs, so we can put thousands of teachers and firefighters and police officers back on the job. Congress should have passed a bill a long time ago to put thousands of construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our runways."
There was no realistic chance Congress would heed the president's call. Not only have GOP lawmakers rejected all credible efforts to boost the economy, but at this point, Capitol Hill doesn't really intend to do much of anything before the election.
Serious legislating is all but done until after the election, so House Republicans are left to do little more than position themselves on the so-called fiscal abyss of expiring tax rates, government funding and borrowing limit. [...][O]n Tuesday, [House Majority Leader Eric Cantor] all but predicted 2012 substantively over. The Senate isn't passing spending bills and is not talking about working to blunt the automatic defense cuts. The two sides remain too far apart on taxes and entitlements. The rest of the year, Cantor said, will likely be about sending "signal[s] that we've actually gotten with the reality here, that we have huge problems to deal with."
So, after a year and a half of getting practically nothing done, we can now expect to see Congress engaged in "signal" sending, not policymaking, for the next five months.
This isn't to say lawmakers will do literally nothing between now and November. I would imagine that the highway bill and the student loan interest rate measure will get some attention, and there's still the looming Republican threat of a pre-election government shutdown, in which House GOP officials have demanded that the White House accept spending cuts on top of those agreed to last year.
But the possibility of Congress tackling any major piece of legislation -- say, a jobs bill, for example -- apparently does not exist.
Congress' approval rating currently stands at around 14%. Under the circumstances, that seems extremely generous.