Today is the last day of the 112th Congress, and it will go down as one of the least productive and most partisan legislative classes in all of American history. But there are a few things that Congress did — or didn’t do — that will stand out as its worst moments:
Almost shut down the government and hit the debt ceiling.
Back in August of 2011, Congressional Republicans took the United States to the brink of an unprecedented credit default by refusing to agree to any tax increase. Republican hijinks resulted in the downgrading of U.S. credit for the first time in history and cost taxpayers $18.9 billion. Congressional approval ratings also plunged to a record low.
Let the Violence Against Women Act expire.
Because of some Congressional Republicans’ opposition to extending protections for LGBT and Native American victims of domestic violence, the House GOP allowed the Violence Against Women Act to expire this year. The bill has enjoyed bipartisan support during every other reauthorization vote. And for a good reason: It is a hugely effective piece of legislation. Now, the program that created a rape crisis hotline, outlawed stalking, and protects victims of heinous violence is hanging in limbo. House Republicans also attempted to change the definition of rape itself in order to deny legal abortions to women who have suffered statutory rape or incest.
Advanced the Ryan Budget.
The House approved Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) radically destructive budget proposal in April 2011, despite outcry from economists, clergy members, and even would gut food aid, Medicaid and Medicare, and other essential safety net programs. An estimated 48 million people would have been kicked off their health insurance, and more than 1 million students would have had their federal Pell grants eliminated.
Voted 33 times to repeal Obamacare.
The House has voted to repeal President Obama’s Affordable Care Act 33 times, even after the Supreme Court affirmed the law’s legitimacy. Since January 2011, Congressional Republicans wasted 88 hours and $50 million on their failed attempt to repeal health care reform. Repealing the ACA would take away insurance from an estimated 30 million people, while adding over $100 billion to the deficit. After he appeared to accept defeat following Obama’s reelection, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) quickly renewed efforts to undermine its provisions even as public approval for the law grows.
Created, then went over, the Fiscal Cliff.
The fiscal cliff is perhaps the greatest example of a 112th Congress boondoggle. When it was created, the goal of the so-called cliff, originally referred to as the “sequester” or the “trigger,” was to force Congress into rethinking taxes and spending by setting a hard deadline of December 31, 2012. Congress felt that such deep cuts to programs favored by both parties — domestic and military spending — would ensure they’d act before they went over ‘the cliff.’ Of course, not only did the House GOP take the US over the cliff before eventually relenting on some tax increases, they also punted the spending cuts, which are now set to take effect in two months.
Spent over $1.5 million to defend the ‘Defense of Marriage Act’.
When the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the House GOP took up the mantle to maintain same-sex marriage bans. While publicly decrying wasteful government spending, Republicans secretly approved a $500,000 increase in the now $2 million budget to defend the law. Meanwhile, Americans’ support for legal same-sex marriages is at an all-time high. The Supreme Court will rule on the law’s constitutionality in June.
Voted 317 times against the environment.
The House has taken 317 votes against the environment — either in the form of deregulation of environmental standards, or through the promotion of drilling for oil. They’ve also spent over one million dollars on a witch hunt investigation of energy company Solyndra, the conclusion of which was that they found “no evidence” of wrongdoing.
Shut down half the internet by proposing SOPA.
On January 18, 2012, websites across the country — including Google and Wikipedia — staged ‘blackouts’ in protest of the 112th Congress’s poorly thought out “anti-piracy” bill, titled the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Critics of the bill read through it and found that its so-called anti-piracy efforts amounted to nothing more than online censorship that would take away the basic functionality of many popular sites. Just a few days after the blackouts, Congress tabled the bill, finding that it was just too unpopular among constituencies cut across the board.
Ignored gun control after their colleague was shot.
Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) was shot at a meeting with constituents in an Arizona parking lot. And while the public raged over the incident, Giffords’s colleagues in Congress stayed conspicuously silent about the political issues around the shooting. In fact, it wasn’t before another three mass shootings shook the nation before members of the 112th Congress were ready to talk about gun control at all. Giffords’ husband called the approach “feckless.”
Held a hearing on birth control where women couldn’t testify.
When House Republicans expressed outrage over the mandate in Obamacare requiring employers provide copay-free contraception to employees, they decided to call a hearing on the issue. Every person they brought forward to testify was a man, and the House Republicans blocked the only woman who was supposed to be a part of the hearing from delivering her testimony. The Senate, meanwhile, rejected an amendment that would have nullified the contraception mandate.
Gave the NRA veto power over judges.
Caitlin Halligan is one of President Obama’s most outstanding judicial nominees. As a former Supreme Court law clerk, former Solicitor General of the state of New York, former head of appellate litigation at one of the nation’s top law firms, former constitutional law instructor at Columbia Law School, and current general counsel for one of the largest prosecutor’s offices in the country, Halligan is far and away one of the most well qualified individuals nominated to the federal bench in any presidency. Yet Senate Republicans filibustered her nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit because she once argued a position on behalf of the state of New York that the National Rifle Association disagrees with. Nor is Halligan the only exceptional nominee filibustered by Republicans for no good reason. Republicans pledged to filibuster any nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in an effort to shut down that agency.