The most-hated Congress on record is back in session today, as the House of Representatives reconvenes after the holiday break for some good old-fashioned election-year gridlock. (The Senate won't join them in Washington until next week.) With the entire House and one-third of the Senate up for re-election — and oh, yeah, that pesky presidential race — experts expect one of the most dysfunctional legislative bodies of all-time to accomplish even less that it did in its first go-around.
A new poll puts Congress' job approval rating at a record low of just 13 percent leading most Americans to ask, "What's wrong with 13 percent of our country?" (Some polls have even reached single digits.) 2011 was Congress' least-productive non-election year in almost two decades and even those currently serving are already warning voters not to get their hopes up. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia says the bar is so low “even a hard-charging fast-digging mole” wouldn't have trouble clearing it. At least "Occupy Congress" protesters will be there to help them look for it.
It doesn't help that the first part of the year is already set aside to clean up the messes left behind from 2011. Legislators have until the end of February to resolve the payroll tax debate that threatened to shut down the government last year. There's also the funding for the FAA and other transportation projects that will run out in the coming weeks, all of which were pushed back or put off due to lack of agreement. But once March or April rolls around, the city will come to a grinding halt as everyone shifts into election mode, pandering to their bases and attacking the other side for inaction. Pretty much all other important legislation (including it seems, an actual budget) has been offloaded to the lame duck session after November. Which probably won't make it any easier to resolve.
So get happy everyone! Those rascally Congresspeople that you love to hate are back on the job and doing what they do best: nothing.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.