Kent Bush: 112th Congress is distant (bad) memory

Kent Bush

The 113th Congress was sworn in Thursday morning. Next they will be sworn to, sworn at, and sworn about.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talked about the 112th Congress’ inability to act on a bill to help New Jersey, New York and Connecticut with their continuing recovery efforts after Superstorm Sandy. It has been more than two months since the disaster and yet the Congress still hasn’t acted. Of course, timing plays a role in that. congressional and presidential elections muddied the floodwaters, as did holiday breaks. And who could forget the New Year celebrations that included pulling the nation’s economy away from the fiscal cliff that the 112th Congress created as one of its first acts.

They could have gotten it done. But they didn’t. The delay between the storm and federal legislative action to help is unprecedented. Christie is fed up.

“This is why the American people hate Congress,” he said.

I’m not sure how accurate that is. People don’t hate Congress, or representatives and senators wouldn’t enjoy such an easy path to re-election.

People seem to love their Congressman and hate the other 434 idiots with whom he is forced to serve.

Everyone can identify one or two things they don’t like that Congress has done. And the 112th Congress did a good job of shining a spotlight on every problem. Some of that was to help in the campaign against President Barack Obama and some of it was a new breed of tea party representatives who have issues within their own party.

But many pundits have declared the last Congress as the worst in history.

It’s hard to argue against that point. This Congress passed 50 percent fewer bills than the next most ineffective incarnation of the legislative branch in U.S. history that was led by Newt Gingrich against his arch nemesis Bill Clinton.

The last Congress couldn’t get an appropriations bill passed and their fun four-month debt ceiling battle - the precursor to the fiscal cliff negotiations - not only put the brakes on an already slow recovery but also ended up hurting our national credit rating.

The only thing the House of Representatives could agree on the last couple of years was repealing “Obamacare” about 20 different ways and getting in the way of any bill that might have benefited the economy, and thus, Obama’s re-election efforts.

Thankfully, we have been saved. The 112th Congress is a distant memory.

Somehow I don’t think this group, which is the most diverse Congress ever (although that isn’t saying much), will be able to come together and work across party lines.

Tip O’Neill isn’t walking through that door and Ronald Reagan isn’t coming back for reruns.

How can you worry about bipartisanship when the Republicans have trouble working together with members of their own party? How can you believe they will ever work with Democrats to craft significant legislation? John Boehner was such an effective speaker of the House that he couldn’t control more than half of his own party’s representatives in the fiscal cliff negotiations. He was so bad that people began researching and remembered that the speaker doesn’t even have to be an elected member of the House.

But Boehner won his job back and immediately pronounced an end to negotiations with Obama. He has been burned too many times and he isn’t going back for more.

That bodes well for immigration reform, gun control and any appropriation bill or debt ceiling fight in the future.

Get your popcorn popping and settle in for some late night fun on C-SPAN. That’s how we started 2013 and that’s probably what we’ll be doing when we give this Congress its final grade at the end of 2014.

Kent Bush is publisher of the Augusta, Kan., Gazette.