The bills that have passed this year largely have been extensions of expiring laws. Also on this year’s list was a must-pass deal to keep the government from shutting down, which essentially was a piece of unfinished business from the previous Congress.

Then there were three laws naming public buildings, a resolution appointing a member of the Smithsonian Institution and one extending the life of the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission.

The inertia might be best observed at the Senate Budget Committee.

When Ayotte was named to the committee after Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) abruptly resigned in April, it was a coveted “get” for a conservative who won office by promising to cut spending. She came out of her first planning meeting with a list of proposals, only to hear Reid say Democrats would not introduce a budget until after the deficit talks.

“I got appointed. I was excited about it. I had one good meeting and then it was done. That’s been my experience on that committee,” Ayotte said. The committee has not met since April 5.

But it’s not just Democrats putting a drag on legislative activity. Republicans on Thursday boycotted a hearing on a series of free trade deals, derailing what was considered a bipartisan effort.