It's official: The Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate agreed on so few issues this year,
Counting the number of bills that make it into law, however, is only one way to judge lawmakers, and not always the most meaningful. Adding 50 new wrinkles to the tax code, for instance, would be far less valuable than enacting a single comprehensive overhaul. And as important as it may be to keep federal law up to date, so too is the work congressional committees do to oversee the executive branch and draw attention to emerging national issues.
Yet the paltry number of bill signings coincides with a stunning inability to do the basic job of governance, let alone tackle bigger and more divisive issues. The legislative branch's most fundamental task is to authorize federal programs and appropriate money each year for the agencies to carry them out. This year, not only could lawmakers not get most of the spending bills through their own chambers, they couldn't agree on a stopgap bill to keep the government open, leading to a costly 16-day shutdown.
The shutdown epitomized the dysfunctional relationship between House
To its credit, the Senate has managed to legislate on a few major issues, such as the country's broken immigration system, and its supermajority-forcing filibuster rule has made Democrats obtain at least a modicum of GOP support for their initiatives. Yet Majority Leader
For most of the session, Republicans and Democrats have acted like an embittered couple that stopped speaking to each other years ago. The sole exception was the recent budget deal struck by the leaders of the House and Senate budget committees, Rep.
The budget agreement should make it easier for Congress to pass bills in January to keep the government open after its temporary funding expires, but there's still a real possibility for lawmakers to foul things up. That, after all, is what happened in October, when House Republicans insisted on attaching a toxic rider — a provision to "defund