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112th Congress Set To Become Most Unproductive Since 1940s

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CONGRESS UNPRODUCTIVE
The 112th Congress is set to make history as the most unproductive since the 1940s. | Getty

WASHINGTON -- As 2012 comes to a close, the 112th Congress is set to go down in American history as the most unproductive session since the 1940s.

According to a Huffington Post review of all the bills that hit President Barack Obama's desk this session, Obama has signed 219 bills passed by the 112th Congress into law. With less than a week to go in the year, there are currently another 20 bills pending presidential action. In comparison, the last Congress passed 383 bills, while the one before it passed 460.

The 104th Congress (1995-1996) currently holds the ignominious distinction of being the least productive session of Congress, according to the U.S. House Clerk's Office, which has records going back to 1947. Just 333 bills became law during that two-year period, meaning the 112th Congress needs to send nearly 100 more bills to Obama's desk in the next few days if it wants to avoid going down in history -- an unlikely prospect, considering that both chambers are squarely focused on averting the "fiscal cliff" before the new year.

The 112th Congress has done far less than the 80th Congress (1947-1948), which President Harry Truman infamously dubbed the "Do-Nothing Congress." Those lawmakers passed 906 bills that became law.

While Obama has signed several pieces of large, consequential legislation in the past two years -- such as sanctions on Iran and the National Defense Authorization Act, allowing the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects without charge -- many of the bills passed by Congress have been small and noncontroversial.

At least 40 bills, including ones awaiting Obama's signature, concerned the renaming of post offices or other public buildings. Another six dealt with commemorative coins.

Meanwhile, significant pieces of legislation that have traditionally received bipartisan support -- such as the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act -- have been blocked.

House Republicans have also held votes to repeal Obamacare more than 30 times since gaining control of the chamber in 2011, despite the fact that such a measure has no chance of passing the Democratically controlled Senate or being signed by Obama.

When asked for comment on the record of the 112th Congress, Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), pointed to the 115 times the Republican minority has held up a bill's passage by threatening to filibuster it. House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office did not return a request for comment.

The lack of bipartisanship in Congress has been lost on no one. In April, Thomas Mann of the left-leaning Brookings Institution and Norm Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute published a Washington Post op-ed saying that the GOP deserves the blame for the dysfunction.

"We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional," they wrote. "In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party."

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) also cited the hyper-partisan, unproductive atmosphere of Congress when she announced her retirement in February.

"[W]hat I have had to consider is how productive an additional term would be. Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term," she said. "So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail."

Congress' approval rating currently stands at 18 percent.

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