If the fact that the Senate — in defiance of the law — has failed to pass a budget in more than 1,000 days didn’t tip you off, a new report from Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson confirms that the current Senate is the laziest since 1992 (h/t Paul Bedard).
The Senate spent an average of just 6.5 hours in session on the 170 days it officially met, the second-lowest since 1992. The upper chamber passed just 90 public laws and 402 measures, both the second-lowest in 20 years. They confirmed just shy of 20,000 judicial and other nominations — or 19,815, a 20-year low.
It’s not just that the Senate is lazy, though: It’s that they’re apparently strategically lazy. Productivity is significantly down from 111th Senate, which met in 2009, when Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate.
A few thoughts: While it’s shabby that the Senate hasn’t passed a budget, the generally decreased productivity might actually be a positive. That means the government is passing fewer laws, in general, and, given the countless unintended consequences of the legislation Congresses have hastily passed in the past, that just means we have fewer such unintended consequences with which to cope. Secondly, who knew 19,815 judicial and other appointments was a 20-year low? That seems to say nothing so much as it says that the bureaucracy has swelled to an insane size. Finally, though, the discrepancy between the activity of the Senate in 2009 and the activity of the Senate last year suggests, again, that the “laziness” of the Senate is strategic. Majority leader Harry Reid and the Democratic senators are intentionally not giving Republicans anything with which to work. That could be because they tried early on in the session — say during the debt ceiling debate — and found it impossible to force their proposals through or because they’ve found it’s politically more advantageous to wait to see House Republicans’ proposals and shoot them down. Either way, the lack of effort in the Senate shows bad faith and an unwillingness to engage the process that, while difficult, occasionally leads to productive outcomes. The president and Senate Dems really cannot accuse Republicans of failing to compromise on budgetary or any other matters if they refuse to give Republicans any material from which to incorporate Democratic proposals into their own. The conciliatory process cannot happen when one side will not take part.