The 113th Congress of 2013-2014 is on-track to becoming the least productive Congress in the history of the U.S. by a wide margin.
So far Congress has only passed 36 public laws this year, which is a diminutive number even when compared to the 112th, which passed 283 public laws and still managed to be the least productive Congress in history previously.
A large contributing factor to the relative dearth in the creation of new laws is the growing division within the Republican Party.
The U.S. government is no stranger to division in politics, as the two-party system has been in place for decades.
The divisiveness of party politics does serve to slow down the political process, including the creation of new laws.
Many see this as one of the functions of good government; the antagonism of party politics might serve to hinder rule by majority.
However, when one party is divided upon itself like the modern Republican Party is, the impact on politicians’ ability to govern effectively can be extreme.
Tea Party Republicans have taken a very antagonistic stance when it comes not only to their dealings with Democrats across the aisle, but even with fellow Republicans.
This has made it difficult for politicians with opposing views within the party to voice their opinions, for fear of being cast as a RINO, or Republican in Name Only.
One of the most vocal members of the Tea Party, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said of attempting to speed up the process of approving a stopgap funding bill “… a vote for cloture is a vote for Obamacare.”
The inner turmoil of the Republican Party might not be noteworthy, if not for the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, or the extreme division between the two parties on political issues.
Traditionally, when one party holds a majority in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, this grants said party a greater degree of control over what goes into the bills that get passed.
However, the bargaining position afforded by Republican majority in the House of Representatives is undercut by the lack of unified policy within the party.
The typical horse trading between the two parties that gets bills passed occurs far less frequently as a result.
Thus, changes in the law that the majority of the country approve of like immigration reform become hotly contested battlegrounds that end up going nowhere as a result of the bickering within Republican ranks.
This division within the GOP also played a role in the recent shutdown of the government; even though some Republicans would rather see the government funded, the tactic chosen by Tea Party members to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has become that of Republican politicians at large.
Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pa. said “At this point, I believe it’s time for the House to vote for a clean, short-term funding bill to bring the Senate to the table and negotiate a responsible compromise.”
The Republican Party division on defunding the ACA isn’t based on ideology, but rather on the methods employed to achieve the party’s ideological goals. Rep. Tom Coburn, R-OK, said of the defund tactic “… I’m all for changing the Affordable Care Act, eliminating it and doing something that’s more transparent, more market-oriented. But, to create the impression that we can defund Obamacare when the only thing we control, and barely, is the U.S. House of Representatives is not intellectually honest.” Government inaction when the issue of the national debt ceiling came up in 2011 had lasting permanent consequences, not the least of which was the downgrading of the U.S. federal government credit-rating from AAA to AA+.
This in turn increased the borrowing costs of the government by $1.3 billion in 2011 alone according to U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates.
Further inaction on the part of politicians regarding the upcoming debt ceiling deadline could have even greater consequences.