Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013 | 2:01 a.m.
In a burst of affronted dignity, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, challenged us, the people, to look at all the legislation the House has passed this year. He suggested we’d be impressed.
Strangely, this followed an earlier outburst in which our speaker boasted that it’s a good thing Congress doesn’t pass a lot of bills because, really, there are too many laws already.
Actually, Boehner said Congress should be judged on how many laws it repeals.
But never mind. Boehner’s a pol, entitled to change his opinion from week to week. Usually, his eyes moisten considerably when he does it, so it makes us a little uneasy to focus on this.
We all know the House voted at least 40 times to repeal Obama-
care, a repeatedly symbolic move because the Democratic majority in the Senate will not vote for repeal, nor would President Barack Obama sign it.
At any rate, we decided to focus our attention on the 56 bills that as of the first of December actually have become law. Perhaps this will explain the roughly $6 billion we spend each year on members of Congress, counting health and retirement benefits.
The first law of the year, passed two and a half months after Hurricane Sandy devastated the Northeast, was to temporarily let the government borrow money to pay national flood insurance claims. Later Congress voted for hurricane disaster relief. This was controversial but good, although many victims have yet to be paid.
The next temporary thing Congress did was to raise the debt ceiling to enable the government to pay debts Congress already has incurred. This was extremely controversial, so it was temporary.
The next measure passed by Congress was to extend the 1994 law forbidding violence against women. This, too, was controversial for some reason having to do with not interfering with tribal laws.
Other laws beefed up the Public Health Service’s ability to deal with pandemics, permitted the District of Columbia to carry out the city’s financial duties if the financial officer has been fired, and kept a lot of small airports from closing because Congress previously cut funding for the Federal Aviation Administration.
There was a lot of talk in Congress about medals. One law specifies the amount of precious-metal blanks permitted in National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins. The four girls killed in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing 50 years ago were awarded Congressional Gold Medals, as were those in the First Special Service Force in World War II. The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 makes clear it is punishable fraud to falsely claim you have a military medal, badge or ribbon.
Stan Musial got his name on the Interstate 70 bridge across the Mississippi River, while section 219(c) of the IRS Code was named the Kay Bailey Hutchison Spousal IRA. Patricia Clark, Douglas Munro and C.W. Bill Young also got their names on federal facilities.
Lest we forget, the Army Corps of Engineers got its comeuppance in the Freedom to Fish Act, which forbids the mighty corps from banning fishing below a dam.
By now you are probably thinking that you, along with 91 percent of the public, may have been too harsh in judging this the do-nothingest Congress ever. After all, 6,375 bills and resolutions were introduced although only the aforementioned 56 became law.
Don’t forget Congress shut down the government for two weeks, although that ended up costing the economy about $29 billion. We’re still waiting for Ted Cruz to explain what the point was.
We are left with questions:
Why do we have to pay Congress $6 billion a year?
What about the unpassed farm and immigration bills? Why no federal budget in years?
Must we have another mind-numbing debate in the House about raising the debt ceiling? Really, John Boehner? Really?
And who are those 9 percent who approve of the job Congress is doing?
Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986.