It’s become a bit of a meme, but our Congress really is quite broken. Much of that dysfunction is due to the historical levels of obstruction that the Republicans in Congress have been operating under since President Barack Obama took office in January of 2009. Their naked aggression towards him — making statements to the effect of their top priority being his ouster — has engendered a culture in the House and Senate that is toxic to any legislation put forth, especially if it in any way can look like a “win” for the president.
Well, if you were ever in the need of charts that quantify and qualify just how much obstruction is really going on in Congress, you can thank the Brookings Institute for their study that proves Congressional Republicans in the 112th Congress — that’s the body that left office at the end of 2012 — was the most conservative group of politicians to sit on Capitol Hill ever. If you don’t think that the fact that our friends on the right have dug their heels deep into the far-right side of the ideological spectrum isn’t have any impact on Congress, you’ve never heard of the word obstruction or you’ve been in a coma the last few years.
As it turns out, the dysfunction really is centered around the House. In the Senate, as this chart shows, ideologies have remained pretty much flat. This also explains why the Senate was able to get an immigration bill with nearly 70 votes, but that in the House immigration reform could easily die on the vine.
This chart shows that while Republicans in Congress have been moving farther and farther right thanks to aggressive primary challenges from Tea Party candidates, Democrats have actually been moving more towards the center. Even Democrats in the South have been softening.
The farther to the ideological right that the GOP swings, the less gets done, because they refuse to negotiate or compromise. That’s fine and dandy for election year campaign commercials, but the reality is that legislation doesn’t move in a divided congress without some kind of negotiations. This would probably be less an issue if the Democrats had their Super Majority in the Senate and had held their lead in the House, but the closer to a 50-50 split that we get, the more compromise that’s needed, and yet look at this chart, where can see clearly that the ideologically-held positions of the GOP in House caucuses has gone up considerably, while the Dems have managed to soften, and move towards the middle — which makes perfect sense if you realize that the Democrats have been got more votes on aggregate last year than Republicans did, which means they’ve become the populist party, while the GOP is the party of the dwindling minority of old thought.
Watch the video, courtesy of Brookings and Vital Statistics On Congress: