Saturday, January 19, 2008


After laboring on yesterday’s blog, “No Confidence in Congress a Bum Rap,” when I went online this morning what should my wondering eyes behold but an analysis by no less than Thomas Mann and Sally Reynolds of the Brookings Institution. For comparison to what I wrote, check them out. They asked how Congress should be judged under its new Democratic leadership. This is what they said:

The public has reached a decidedly negative conclusion, based on Congress’s inability to force a change in policy on the Iraq war and the pitched partisan battles that characterized much of the year in Washington.

But expectations for seismic change in policymaking after the 2006 midterm elections were almost certainly too high, given the deep ideological differences between the parties, the Democrats’ narrow majorities, the now-routine Senate filibusters and a Republican president determined to go his own way on Iraq, the budget and domestic policy.

Mann and Reynolds conclude that based on their research, the 110th Congress deserves some praise:

The new Democratic Congress delivered on the promise of ethics and lobbying reform, and made considerable progress in reining in earmarks, which had exploded under the previous 12 years of mostly Republican rule. In fact, between the 2006 and 2008 fiscal years, the cost of appropriations earmarks appears to have dropped from $29 billion to $14.1 billion. Perhaps most important, Congress reasserted itself as a rightful check on the executive branch, significantly stepping up its oversight on a wide range of important subjects.

But a less partisan, more deliberative and productive legislative process will have to await a clearer signal from voters in the 2008 elections.

What do you think?

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