The most important job of Congress is not passing new laws. Lawmakers are sworn to uphold the Constitution, which requires that they protect our individual rights and act as stewards of a government with enumerated powers.
It's especially important to remember this anytime talk turns to the "partisan gridlock" that has limited Washington's ability to add to the mountain of federal statutes that controls so much of our lives. On Wednesday, USA Today reported that Congress has passed just 61 of the 3,914 bills that have been introduced by lawmakers in 2012. Congress passed 90 bills in 2011, only the second time since 1947 that Congress failed to pass at least 125 pieces of legislation in a year.
In sending less than 2 percent of proposed new laws to the White House for the president's signature, the newspaper laments, the current Congress is responsible for "the least-productive two-year gathering on Capitol Hill since the end of World War II." The Democrat-controlled Congress of 2009 and 2010, by comparison, passed almost 400 bills.
We would argue that the current session of Congress has been among the least destructive. That's because far too many of the bills put forth by lawmakers attack our constitutional rights - take your pick among the First, Second, Fourth and Fifth Amendments, to say nothing of the Ninth - and expand the authority of the federal government beyond what the Founders intended. The result is a regulatory behemoth with $16 trillion in debt and future entitlement promises that can't be kept.
A better measure of the effectiveness of Congress would be whether it addresses the nation's urgent challenges and passes a balanced budget. In this regard, the current Congress, like so many others before, is a failure (see above).
The country doesn't need hundreds of new laws every year. It needs real leadership - right now.