The 112 Congress had the lowest approval rating and passed the least amount of legislative bills in history. As bad as they were the 113 has the potential to be worse. Here are 8 reasons why.
1) The Same "Leadership" Was Re-Elected: The leadership that caused the country to lose its credit rating is exactly the same. The House is led by Speaker John Boehner (R- Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Budget Chairperson Paul Ryan (R–Wisc.), and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).The Senate is led by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
2) The New Democrats Have Arrived: The New Democrat caucus is the polar opposite and liberal response to the Tea Party. The group has more than 50 members and vows to be a more influential force in the new Congress. Representative Gerry Connolly (D- Va.) stated, "we're going to assert our values, our views, our take on something even if that might mean that it's somewhat at variance with, say, prevailing wisdom in our Caucus … or the White House."
3) The New Congress is More Partisan Than the Last Congress: Regional partisan lines are more distinct than ever. The National Journal notes "Republicans were shut out in 21 House races and four Senate contests in New England. Blue Dogs lost seats, and Republicans increased their stranglehold on the South." There are far less moderates and pragmatists in this Congress. "Blue Dog Democrats — who boasted a membership of 54 in the 111th Congress — will see that number shrink to 14 in the 113th." Notable moderates and pragmatic dealmakers that left Congress include Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), and Energy Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M), Senator Joe Lieberman (ID – Conn.), Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), and Senator Olympia Snowe (R- Maine).
4) The Job at Hand is too Large to Jeopardize Their Short Term Desire to be Re-elected: 2014 is just around the corner in campaign months and the list of things to do is extremely risky to a Congressperson's career aspirations. The 113 not only has to take on sequestration, but they have to complete the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank bill. If the outgoing Congress is any indication bipartisanship is a bad word in Washington, D.C. and these items, government spending, health care and financial services reform are the most partisan issues left over from the previous Congress. The New York Times' Nate Silver explained, "one of the firmest conclusions of academic research into the behavior of Congress is that what motivates members first and foremost is winning elections."
5) Congress is Too Inexperienced in the Art of the Deal: One-third of the House has less than three years' experience, including 82 freshmen. The Republican wave of 2010 is included in that list of inexperienced members of Congress and that was the group that ushered in this era of obstructionism and partisanship politics. The Wall Street Journal wrote, "incoming members, many elected by wide margins, came to Washington armed with promises to reach across the aisle — even as they outlined partisan goals."
6) Gun Control Has Been Made a Priority: Both sides are throwing down the gauntlet on responsible gun ownership. The Democrats led by Senator Diane Feinstein (D–Calif.) and President Obama have made it clear that gun control for them means a ban on the ownership and sale of certain firearms. Gun control will exacerbate fragile relationships and divert attention away from the more important issue of jobs and the economy.
7) The Ryan Budget is the GOP Blueprint: Grover Norquist said the Republicans already have a plan, it is the Ryan budget. Ryan is back in charge of the House Budget Committee so expect that budget to be re-submitted. That means there will be the same discussion over Medicare reform that we just had for the last two years, except this time there won't be a conflict in message coming from a moderate Massachusetts businessman.
8) Obama is still the President: President Obama has made several statements that indicate that this Congress will be fighting uphill. First he went on Meet the Press and announced that he would support the Feinstein — led ban on assault weapons. He then said that he would not negotiate on the debt ceiling, twice. Finally, during the current fiscal cliff talks he proved once again unable to close the deal. Last time he had to send in Vice President Joe Biden, this time it took White House aide Rob Nabors to get the parties to the negotiating table.