New statistics show that Congress may be more dysfunctional than at any time in the last 60 years.
We have to let our representatives know that business as usual isn't acceptable and we expect them, above all else, to get stuff done. The number of laws passed by Congress last year was fewer than at any point since 1947. And to make matters worse, Congress will get 239 "vacation days" in 2013.
The figures from the House Clerk's office paint a bleak picture of Congressional productivity.
Number of laws passed each year by Congress since 1947:
Source: Maddow Blog, House Clerk's Office
But what remains most astonishing about our representatives on the Hill is not only the quantity of legislation, but the amount of time spent working. The Congressional calendar for this coming year consists of 126 days, leaving members of Congress 239 days to perhaps tour our great nation, toy with the idea of running for higher office, and maybe visit a natural disaster or two. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's calendar releases rather embarrassing scheduling without a single 5-day work week or weekend. If you are already feeling riled up about this, I would not suggest looking at the month of August.
So, how? How can hard-working Americans, residents of one of the most overworked countries in the world, commute five times a week to and from work while their money is squandered away in one of the two or three weekly meetings Congress manages in squeeze in?
Well, perhaps my take on activities is somewhat cynical (not that you should have expected any less). Apparently, these weeks off are called "District work periods," also known as free travel at taxpayer expense.
Even Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) admits the wrongdoing of his colleagues: "I think we'd get more work done if we spent more time in Washington. We come in, we go straight to votes, and then we go to our separate quarters. We don't really get to know each other anymore."
But Cantor disagrees in publishing a schedule with many long breaks allowing for travel and "district work periods."
This isn't the beginning. This unabashed congressional laziness has run rampant over the past decade and is only inflating. In 2007, Fox News reported expensive monthly trips taken by members of Congress to far-off lands on whose dime? Oh yes, that’s right. I think I'm starting to understand her point.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and his wife are particularly cultured because of his spot on the Hill. He and his wife frequent Aspen Institute conferences, along with many other members of Congress. The Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit dedicated to fostering enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue, has covered the costs of sending members of Congress to their seminars and workshops in the past. From 2000-2007, the Miller couple has attended 30 conferences with a total value of over $200,000. But that is not the kicker. Rep. George Miller, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman, did not even have a place at these conferences. Only 3 of the 30 conferences he has attended were related to education. And don't let the name fool you: The Aspen Institute certainly does not hold conferences in Aspen only. Mr. and Mrs. Miller have traveled to Aspen conferences in:
Naples, Florida, San Juan, Vancouver, Prague, Grand Cayman, Florence, Helsinki, Punta Mita, Mexico, Scottsdale, China, Barcelona, Montega Bay, Jamaica, Rome, Cancun, Venice, Dublin, Istanbul, and Hawaii.
Not only do these luxurious conferences take place across the globe, but they also ended up consuming about half a year in total, or 10% of every year.
So, does the Aspen Institute represent 10% of Rep. George Miller's constituents?