During the White House press briefing today, a reporter asked spokeswoman Dana Perino if the reason President Bush’s final State of the Union won’t be addressing Social Security or immigration is because such bold proposals would be “politically not possible.” Saying the President had shown “very bold leadership” in the past, Perino argued that Bush is avoiding “big ideas” because “it is unrealistic to expect” Congress to take them on this year.
Continuing her defense of Bush’s scaled down State of the Union plans, Perino then attacked the current Congress, claiming that 2007 was the year of the “do-nothing Congress”:
It is unrealistic to expect that this Congress is going to take on such big problems this year. They haven’t been willing to do it in the past several years; there’s no reason to think that they would do it this year. Remember, 2007 was labeled the “do-nothing Congress.” Hopefully in 2008, there are some things that we can get done.
Perino should brush up on her recent history before throwing around such labels. By any fair measure, it was actually the previous Congress — controlled by members of the President’s own party — that earned the title of “do-nothing Congress.”
In a recent New York Times op-ed, Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Thomas Mann wrote that “the 110th Congress does deserve some praise” because “in 2007, the level of energy and activity on Capitol Hill picked up markedly.” In fact, Mann notes, the 2007 Congress also outperformed the vaunted “Republican Revolution” Congress of 1995 on key measures:
In terms of both the number and significance of new public laws, however, last year’s Democratic majority significantly outperformed that Republican Congress. Only one item described in the Republican Contract With America was signed into law at the end of 1995, while most of the proposals the Democrats announced as their agenda were enacted.
Here’s Mann’s op-chart: