The polarized 112th Congress is on track to be the least productive in terms of bills passed since President Harry Truman famously stuck the “do-nothing Congress” label on the 80th two-year session.
So far this year Congress has passed only 61 bills, following last year’s total of 90 bills passed.
One of the prime victims of the congressional gridlock is the farm bill. The House of Representatives deserves the blame. House Speaker John Boehner has not even put the House ag committee’s bill to a vote.
While the House dithered, the worst drought in half a century spread across the farm belt. Crops are dead in the field. Ranchers are selling cattle because they can’t find affordable hay and feed.
Sen. Ben Nelson provided an accurate and blunt analysis in remarks at the annual legislative summit sponsored by Lincoln, Omaha and Nebraska chambers of commerce this week at the Strategic Air and Space Museum.
“Congress has passed a farm bill every four to five years for a number of decades. The Senate stuck to tradition and passed a five-year bill with broad bipartisan support with only regional differences. But it’s held up in the House. Even though the House Ag Committee sent its bill out of committee, it’s unlikely to get a vote. Why?
“It reminded me of what the late Sen. George W. Norris used to say, ‘I’ve come back to tell you the truth.’ Well, so am I. As I see it.
“In Washington, the word compromise has become a dirty, four-letter word and bipartisanship has become harder every day.”
The current farm bill is set to expire Sept. 30. Consider this report from politico.com:
“Politico looked back at 50 years of farm bills and found nothing like this. There have been long debates, often tortuous negotiations with the Senate and a famous meltdown in 1995 when the House Agriculture Committee couldn’t produce a bill. But no House farm bill, once out of committee, has been kept off the floor while its deadline passes.”
Possibly Congress could get its act together after members return to Washington after their five-week recess.
Don’t get your hopes up.
The current schedule for Congress calls for only 13 working days in September.
Yellowed cornhusks rustle in the dry wind, while Congress aims for a record in futility.