Members of Congress Respond to the State of the Union
If bipartisanship is the name of the game, we've got a long way to go in Congress. An event hosted by Politico yesterday morning featured eight members of Congress articulating their reaction to President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday and their level of optimism for the second year of the 112th Congress. The event featured Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Representatives Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and Aaron Schock (R-IL). While no one called President Obama's address on Tuesday night confrontational, many of the comments made at yesterday's event were, as Politico put it, "predictably partisan," with the Republican members of Congress finding much to criticize and Democratic members finding much to praise.
This Congress has been, in Rep. Hoyer's opinion, the most obstructionist and least productive in his 30 years in elected office. It's not hard to understand why Rep. Hoyer feels this way: Last year, the House voted 956 times; in comparison the Senate has voted only 235 times. Even without drudging up the data from the last 30 years, we can see a big difference between the numbers from the first half of the 112th Congress and the numbers from the 111th Congress. While the number of votes from the first year of the 111th Congress is not available, the full two-year session recorded 1,654 votes in the House and 688 votes in the Senate. Looking at the numbers from the first half of the 112th Congress, it seems as if the Senate is certainly not on track to reach the numbers from the 111th Congress or those of many other previous Congresses – and with such a large gap between the two chambers, it is unlikely that many of these votes are actually on the same bills that can then become law.
While no one could agree on how to tackle our continuing debt crisis or create successful tax reform, the words "transportation", "highway" and "infrastructure" served as common ground during the event. In the State of the Union, President Obama announced his intent to issue an Executive Order stripping red tape from infrastructure projects but also left Congress with a firm reminder that it must fund these essential projects to fix crumbling highways and aging bridges. As Rep. Schock pointed out, "We do not drive on Democratic or Republican roads."
When asked what will set the tone for the second half of this Congress, Rep. Becerra immediately called to mind the fight that recently occurred over a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut. This tax proposal will once again be front and center in 2012, and Rep. Becerra was not highly optimistic that this round would yield an easier compromise than the last attempt.
These esteemed members of Congress were not the only ones having a discussion of the President's State of the Union proposals and hope for legislative successes that could follow – check out the RAC's State of the Union BINGO board and accompanying blog posts for more on what we hoped to hear in the State of the Union, as well as our general and issue-specific reactions and our take on the Republican response given by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.