Even before the government shutdown, not a lot was getting done on Capitol Hill. So it's not a huge surprise, then, that the House now appears to be prepared to let out a sigh, kick off its shoes, and get ready for its Christmas parties. In other words, the Year of the Tea Party has been a huge success.
Politico assessed the House's plans for the rest of 2013 and found them to be … modest.
GOP leaders are struggling to come up with an agenda to fill the 19 legislative days that are left in 2013. … The House votes Monday evening and will finish its work week Wednesday. After that, the House is out of session until Nov. 12. Internally, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and senior Republicans aren’t discussing coming back early from the scheduled recess, but instead, they are wondering if they’ll cancel some of the remaining days in session.
Sure, why not. In July, we looked at how little the 113th Congress had accomplished at that point. And now we can provide updated numbers, via GovTrack. At left below, the number of bills introduced and passed in each Congress. That plunge at the far right? Your 113th Congress, ladies and gentlemen. Granted, the other Congresses were around for two years, not just the 10 months this one has under its belt. By the first October of each session, members have introduced 60 percent of all the legislation that will come up during a Congress. At right below, how the 113th's workload compares to past Congresses in that light.
Legislation by Congress
Legislation introduced by first October, est.
The previous low point by October? The 104th Congress — the last time we had a government shutdown.
To be fair, it's not like the House won't be doing anything until the end of the year. According to that Politico report, they will still be active in trying to undermine and repeal Obamacare. Which is how they started the month, you may remember, in a burst of activity, passing a bill at 1:30 a.m. On October 1 that was the last large-scale budget proposal from the body — minus full Obamacare implementation — until the shutdown was resolved. So this fall, they'll have hearings on the flawed Healthcare.gov rollout, votes on delaying the individual mandate, and will push for HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to step down.
Among the things that won't be addressed: immigration reform or background check legislation. There could be a vote on curbing the NSA's collection of phone records — but it doesn't appear to be super urgent for House Republican leadership.
As Slate's Dave Weigel noted in August, there is some method to this laziness.
In a July 21 interview, Boehner sidestepped a question about how little was getting to the president’s desk by insisting Congress “ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal.”
That was a smarter line than pundits gave him credit for. Boehner was translating a core tenet that most Republicans believe—that “government is best which governs least.”
The Tea Party is adamant that government do as little as possible. In that sense, the Republicans' far-right flank had already been largely successful this year, even before the shutdown.
But again: it's not clear this is a winning electoral strategy for any non-Tea Party voters. Last week, a poll from ABC News suggested that — for the first time since such polling began in 1990 — Americans on average had a negative opinion of their own members of Congress. Two-thirds indicated that they planned to look at new candidates in the 2014 House elections; only a quarter were inclined to reelect their current representatives. Americans like the idea of removing government from their lives and eradicating taxes. In practice, as the shutdown showed, things get hazier.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.