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Disclaimer: The author of this site maintained the campaign weblog of John Kline's opponent in the 2006 election, which made Congressman Kline a bit testy.

As with all blogs, review the facts carefully and draw your own conclusions.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Do Nothing

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

Congress adjourned on September 29, and won't be back in session until after the election. Typically, this is the time when incumbents return to their districts and tout their accomplishments to make their case for re-election.

For some reason, John Kline hasn't exactly been doing that. We discussed one possible reason earlier: that Kline's policy positions aren't likely to win him much support. Another possibility is the fact that the 109th Congress stands out for its minimal level of accomplishment.

A recent article by Margaret Talev of McClatchy cites an analysis by Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute:

They note that President Harry Truman first stuck the "do-nothing" tag on Congress in 1948. That year Congress was in session 110 days. This year Congress completes only 94 days of work before recessing for the elections.

Lawmakers typically are in Washington only from Tuesdays through Thursdays.

Mann and Ornstein say Congress' Republican leadership has taken traditional abuses of power farther than ever: They bypass committees, cut off floor debate, disallow amendments, force hasty votes on major bills that few have read and sometimes keep 15-minute vote counts open for hours while they browbeat junior members into supporting their position.

They also note the stark contrast between the attack-dog nature of the Republican-led Congress during the Clinton adminstration, and the extreme deference this Congress has shown the Bush White House:

On balance, scholars say Republican congressional leaders ignored their duty to question decision-making and investigate corruption within the Bush administration. "They've done almost no oversight on the war or almost anything that matters," Ornstein said.

In contrast, in the 1990s Republicans in Congress investigated whether President Clinton had used the White House Christmas card mailing list to scout for donors.

"There were (more than) 100 hours of oversight hearings on alleged misuse of the Clinton Christmas card list, and 12 hours of hearings on Abu Ghraib. This tells you all you need to know," Ornstein said.

No immigration reform, no action on Bush's Social Security privatization scheme, no ethics reform, not even a budget for the 2007 fiscal year. But undermining one of the pillars of western jurisprudence, that they found time to do.


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