By: Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director, Governmental Relations Division
I have to be honest with you—working with the 112th and 113th Congresses has been the most frustrating experience since I started in AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division (GRD) in 2003. The GRD, AVMA and the veterinary profession are working hard to get our priorities addressed in Congress, but nothing is getting done. Our forefathers made it very difficult to get legislation passed (the process is mindboggling), but this is getting a bit ridiculous! It is very difficult for a list keeper like me because I can’t cross anything off of my to-do list.
Now I know what many of you are thinking, “If they can’t pass anything, then they can’t screw anything up.” Well, although I sometimes agree with you (and we also use this to our advantage with bills that we do not support), there are some things that we would like to see passed this year: the Farm Bill, the fiscal 2014 Agriculture appropriations bill, the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, and the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, to name a few.
National Journal recently analyzed the percentage of federal bills and resolutions passed versus the number that have been introduced for each Congress since the 108th Congress (which interestingly enough, is exactly when I started at the GRD). The percentage of bills passed has declined by 1 percent per year.
The Pew Research Center looked at this from another way in its recent article, “Current Congress is not the least productive in history, but close.” They broke down the number of laws passed by Congress into two types: substantive (has a big impact, like the Affordable Care Act) versus ceremonial (such as naming a post office after me). They also found that the passage of both types of bills has been on the decline:
“So far, this year appears to be on track to be one of the least productive. Of the 31 measures that have become law so far this Congress, 24 count as substantive by our admittedly generous definition. That’s five more than the 112th Congress managed to get through by Labor Day 2011, and three more than the 107th Congress mustered at the equivalent point in its term.
However, the 113th is well off the pace set as recently as 2007, when 45 substantive bills had become law by the end of August; even in 2009, when Congress was riven by disputes over health-care reform, financial regulation and economic stimulus, 38 substantive laws had been enacted by summer’s end.
More broadly, since the 106th Congress (1999-2000) there’s been a steady downward trend in the volume of legislation, both total and substantive only.”
At the rate Congress is going, we will never see the “Mark Lutschaunig Memorial Post Office!”
We can spend hours discussing the reasons for this decline, but I am not going to do that here. I will say that we have always had Republicans versus Democrats, but now we also have liberal Democrats versus Blue Dog Democrats versus moderate Republicans versus conservative/tea party Republicans. There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, with many different public policy recipes.
But, at least I am happy now. I just finished my September Advocate article, so I can cross it off of my list, and Victoria, our communications manager, does not have to bug me anymore….at least not until next month!