At times like these, it’s easy to get down on the American voter:
A plurality of Americans, though, perceive this Congress as having done less than usual. I’m not even sure how a political system is supposed to function with an electorate so far detached from reality.
I’m not sure that polling of people’s opinions on the issues even has any meaning. I mean, if there is one thing I am fairly confident about it’s that the Republicans made a winning argument that the government was doing too much. It’s not that people might not think Congress has done too little to get the economy moving, but they saw the government’s fingers in the auto industry, in the banking industry, in the health care industry, in the mortgage industry, in the insurance industry, and it seemed like a lot was going on.
As a purely factual matter, the present Congress has been more productive in terms of passing meaningful legislation than any since LBJ’s 1965-66 Congress passed Medicare, the Voting Rights Act, and a plethora of other landmark achievements. Here’s a list of the major bills passed by the 111th Congress.
Acts of the 111th United States Congress
January 29, 2009: Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, Pub.L. 111-2
February 4, 2009: Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, Pub.L. 111-3
February 17, 2009: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Pub.L. 111-5
March 11, 2009: Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, Pub.L. 111-8
March 30, 2009: Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, Pub.L. 111-11
April 21, 2009: Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, Pub.L. 111-13
May 20, 2009: Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009, Pub.L. 111-22
May 22, 2009: Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, Pub.L. 111-23
May 22, 2009: Credit CARD Act of 2009, Pub.L. 111-24
June 22, 2009: Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, as Division A of Pub.L. 111-31
June 24, 2009: Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009, including the Car Allowance Rebate System (Cash for Clunkers) Pub.L. 111-32
October 28, 2009: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, including the Matthew Shepard Act, Pub.L. 111-84
November 6, 2009: Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009, Pub.L. 111-92
February 12, 2010: Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act, as Title I of Pub.L. 111-139
March 4, 2010: Travel Promotion Act of 2009, as Section 9 of Pub.L. 111-145
March 18, 2010: Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act, Pub.L. 111-147
March 23, 2010: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pub.L. 111-148
March 30, 2010: Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, including the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, Pub.L. 111-152
May 5, 2010: Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, Pub.L. 111-163
July 1, 2010: Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, Pub.L. 111-195
July 21, 2010: Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Pub.L. 111-203
August 10, 2010: SPEECH Act of 2010, Pub.L. 111-223
October 7, 2010: Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010
October 8, 2010: Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Reauthorization Act of 2010
If Congress had passed nothing more than the health care bill and the Wall Street reforms, this Congress would have been more significant than any since 1965-66. But they did a lot more than that. Perhaps the best piece of legislation was the Credit CARD Act. The public lands bill was very significant. The creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency was huge. Little noticed was the fact that the Dems finally got a patient bill of rights bill though, finally passed a hate crimes bill, and finally cut out the middle man on college loans. Veteran’s did extremely well in this Congress, which the American Legion readily recognizes.
Never mind that the president stopped the freefall of the economy, saved the auto industry, and secured subsidies for all those who can’t afford health insurance, he and this Congress have been extremely productive on other fronts. That the American people could tell pollsters that this Congress had done less than usual is not just bizarre. It doesn’t even make sense.