A month before the midterm election, the House had passed 400-plus pieces of legislation more than the Senate.
The disparity between the Capitol Hill bodies in passing bills already had led to pre-election ill-will among members. Back in October, many House members said they were infuriated by the slow pace of doing business in the Senate, where bills can be held up by filibuster and other rules.
With the Republican takeover of the lower body of Congress, House and Senate operational agendas will diverge not only in legislative process and style, but politically.
What will that mean? The incoming GOP House will likely keep passing more bills that go to the Senate to die.
And about the new Senate. The Democrats are nominally still in control and yes, some of the new members are more conservative. But don't expect 60 Senators get together, at least not regularly, to break up either party's filibusters.
These House and Senate scenarios, my friends, are the classic definition of gridlock.
Gridlock's pros and cons: While a Congress that can't or won't do much is theoretically a constituent's dream and already has somewhat bucked up Wall Street spirits, the reality is that gridlock is not necessarily good for America.
We're facing an economy that's just beginning to get back on track. Some of the improvement has come from federal spending. When that dries up, and similarly cash-strapped states can't or won't make up the difference, will our economy head down again?
And what about unemployment? Regardless of what political position you take on how to improve the business and work environment in this country, some type of legislation will be necessary.
So while just playing chicken might seem like a good strategy for 2012 campaigns, people have to live for the next two years and that will require that their federal lawmakers do their jobs. That means they must make some laws, not sit on their hands and bitch about the other party.
Lame-duck Congressional to-do list shrinks: We should get some idea of the working relationships in the lame-duck Congress scheduled to begin next week. But it will not be a complete picture.
Right now, the Democrats are still, ostensibly, in charge. That officially changes, as will Capitol Hill agendas, in January.
Realistically, in a few months the chances for action on a wide range of issues will diminish.
So what will happen in the month or so of the lame-duck session?
In the wake of the Democrats' Nov. 2 shellacking, many of that party's insiders say that the most they expect to see passed are a stop-gap spending measure and temporary extension of Bush-era tax cuts.
"I'm very pessimistic we'll get much done," a labor official familiar with lame-duck negotiations told The Hill newspaper. "Republicans will try to put off everything so they can claim credit for anything that passes at the beginning of the new Congress."
That's an understandable poltiical approach. But I keep hearing the phrase "be careful what you wish for" as the rejiggered Congress prepares to get back to work.
Rather than trying to score purely polical points, it might be wiser to work on good legislation that helps the country, with input from both sides.
Yeah, that sounds like crazy talk. But remember the other lesson of Nov. 2.
Voters nowadays are impatient and they're not afraid to make changes if they're unhappy with what legislators do or don't do.
- Potential Republican budget cuts
- Suggested first Republican budget cut: Congressional salaries
- Reagan tax cut architect says GOP has gone too far
with anti-tax 'religion'
- Three more likely votes on Capitol Hill for keeping
all of Bush's tax cuts
- Expiring tax cuts might just do that
- Tax cuts, or hikes, for all
- OMG! What will happen to my tax bill if the
Bush tax cuts expire!?!
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