All In   |  August 02, 2013

Worst. Congress. Ever.

Chris Hayes grades the 113th Congress' progress as members leave town for the August recess. He's joined by former RNC Chairman Michael Steele and Democratic Congressman Rick Nolan of Minnesota who left Congress in 1980 and returned this year.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening from new york, i'm chris hayes . tonight on "all in," the future of cars is not only super cool . it could make us all live longer. i'll talk about saving the planet one car at a time.

>>> also, if you're not sure how you feel about the practice of solitary quamt, tonight you'll hear from a man who spent eight years in solitary and the toll it has taken on him as a free man.

>>> the foreclosure crisis left a lot of people without any help and without any hope. but one city has finally taken steps to deal with the problem and actually get struggling homeowners back on their feet. and guess what, the banks hate it.

>>> we begin tonight with vacation! as of tonight, everyone's favorite congress is officially on lerecess. and there is nothing better than taking some well-deserved time off after you spent months and months working really hard. here's what congress has done this year. they've passed and sent the president 22 bills. that sounds like a lot of progress for seven months? let me assure you it is not. here's how much congress had gotten done by the august recess going back to 2006 when democrats first took over. it used to be they were getting somewhere around three times as many bills passed in the same amount of time. but not anymore. now, of course, to be fair, john boehner famously told us all last week not to judge congress ' productivity based on how many bills they passed. that's crazy talk.

>> should not be judged on how many new laws we create. we ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal.

>> okay, speaker, let's give that a try. how many laws has congress repealed this year? zero. zero laws. they have not actually successfully repealed anything. now, in all fairness to speaker boehner , house republicans have in fact taken many, many votes to repeal obama care. they have voted for repeal several times this year. for a grand total since boehner became house speaker of 40 aimless, pointless, symbolic votes that will not result in anything actually being repealed. that includes one of the last votes they took today before heading out for vaca. how should we evaluate this congress , how should we figure their quarterly grades? here are some numbers we could judge the 113th congress by. thanks to the sequester that members of this congress allowed to happen or openly cheered for they're responsible for 700 fewer research grants for the national institutes of health . around 750 fewer patients admitted to nih clinical center. roughly 752,000 civilian employees in the department of defense furloughed. 4 million fewer meals for needy seniors for meals on wheels program. there's 11 million undocumented immigrants whose very presence in the united states would become a federal crime under a republican measure passed in committee in the house . and approximately 300,000 dreamers who have already been given legal student who would be at risk of deportation under a house -passed amendment. there's the $38 billion the senate passed immigration bill would spend on militarizing the u.s./mexico border, including the 19 border agents per mile of the border. and the 11,000 american women who would lose access to abortion under a house -passed abortion ban. the 4.1 billion in cuts to the food stamps program passed by the senate. probably the easiest grade the 113th congress has is this. approval rating of 8%. i don't know about you but i think 8% sounds like a really low "f." join me is michael steele , former republican national committee chairman. my wrong? the united states congress , particularly the house of representatives , is a total disaster?

>> yeah, it is. it's been almost a little bit embarrassing to say that, because of the gravity of the issues that you've talked about and pointed out on this show and others, that you think people would recognize, yes, immigration, health care , the economy. the economy, jobs, what about a jobs bill? what about putting things on the table that will put people back to work? the unemployment rate, yes, 7.4%. but you still have a significant flatlining of employment for those who are out there looking, who have been reduced from full to part-time. so this congress has let a lot of things slip by them. playing to an audience, and i don't know who that audience is, other than themselves and the folks down at the other end of 1600 pennsylvania avenue . because the rest of us are sitting here scratching your heads. and you're going on vacation for 30 days ?

>> the thing i have to say about it is this. you and i are going to have very different prescriptions for solving the economy and i'm going to have different ideas. but i feel like this congress in particular, more than the last congress , this congress in particular is not even being competently managed by particularly speaker boehner . yesterday, this week, you have this crazy thing where they're going to do a routine appropriations bill to fund hud and transportation and they had to pull it because it didn't look like they had the votes. it just seems to me like it's almost this king is dead game of thrones feudal warfare on the house side in which there's no actual coherent, unified leadership to push an agenda, were there actually an agenda.

>> well, i think, you know, the partisanship aside, i think it's a fair point. you're absolutely right. you and i, as we would see in the house , between republicans and democrats, would have a different prescription for how to solve the problem. that's if we actually got in the room and sat down to try to work out the prescription to solve the problem. they're not doing that. and the concern that i see, particularly for the gop going into next year, is that what is going to be the conversation with the country? how do you convince the country that you're serious about promoting the business of the nation, the business of communities that are out there trying to make ends meet, when you look at the record and see not much is getting done?

>> there's two big items, i think, on the horizon when congress comes back. there's, what is going to become of the immigration bill the senate has passed? is it going to get a vote in the house ? and right now, i feel like boehner 's painted in such a corner that he's doing the old stall tactic. like, if he pretends it's not there, if everyone just goes along. but i don't think -- you think the stall tactic is going to work? they're going to have to have an accountability moment.

>> yeah, there is that moment where you're going to have to sit down and the heads will have to be counted and the hands will have to be raised to cast the vote. beyond see how they get through this congress . coming back in september and not at least make a good faith effort at passing an immigration bill , particularly given that the senate has done its part. you need to get a bill to conference. let the members in the house and the senate go to conference, work out a bill to get to the president's desk. we need to stop this obama can't get a win. because in the process, we're hurting ourselves. we're seeing -- seen as obstructionist, we're not seen as promoting and progressing is agenda in a way the people see the nation's business getting done. there's no clearer example of that than on the gun issue. this is where it hits both democrats and republicans . the nation, 90% of the nation say we want something done on this. and they blinked. they took a pass. they didn't address it. and the same is true on this issue with immigration. so i think there's a real setup potential here for disaster next year. if we don't play close attention to getting something done between now and note, you're right, there were some democrats balking at assault weapons legislation but that was largely republicans , particularly in the senate. the other thing on the horizon is the idea that cruz, lee and paul have, senators, to essentially precipitate a government shut-down of some sort unless obama care is defunded. a lot of people are saying that's a bonkers idea, what do you think of that?

>> i have to agree with the republican leaders who feel that this is not the message we want to send to the country that is still trying to deal with this economy. and, you know, the idea that the way you're going to do is basically hold it hostage, to hold the economy hostage, hold families and communities hostage, those who are federal employees, it doesn't make sense to me. look, i'm all for, you know, taking care of obama care, getting it right. we know it's a problem. max baucus on the left, others on the the right, have said this needs to be fixed. i don't think this is the way to get it done. again, if they're a problem, put your solutions on the table.

>> that's the issue. the solutions. the solutions are missing. michael steele , former rnc chairman, thank you very much.

>> you got it, my friend.

>>> democratic congressman rick noel of minnesota, elected in 1974 , left in 1980 , then spent 32 years as a businessman before being re-elected to congress last november. so congressman, you have this really unique perspective on this congress . and you can speak to in a historical context of whether this congress is as bad as i said it is. what do you think?

>> well, it is bad. i mean, the pundits, the experts, have looked at it. and we're on the road to becoming the most unproductive congress in the history of the united states . and, you know, i would have thought speaker boehner understood the legislative process when he said, as you quoted him at the beginning of the show, you know, it's a good thing not to pass any bills and put any more laws on the books. the fact is that when you pass a bill, it becomes law, it can either be repealing something, it can be changing something, it can be protecting and preserving something. but we're doing very darn little of any of the above.

>> you and i have spoken before about some of the big differences between when you were in congress the first time and in congress now that are deeper necessarily than john boehner 's having a hard time controlling his caucus and speak to just how much members of congress are actually working right now. how much time they're spending doing the people's business, how much time they're spending fund raising . what has changed in those three decades since the last time you were in the capitol?

>> well, chris, there are a lot of little changes and big changes. the two big changes, the flip side of the same coin. my last election contest added up to like over $20 million. my previous one was only a couple hundred thousand dollars. the pros up here on the hill tell members that they should be spending 30 hours a week in the republican and democratic call centers across the street dialling for dollars. one level it's understandable. the political scientists tell us the ones with the most money generally get the most votes. the flip side of that coin is that we're not spending our time governing. i had my staff do a little research on the number of subcommittee and committee meetings that we had when i served in the past. and the three terms that i served, we spent between 7,000 and 8,000 subcommittee meetings. this congress has had somewhere between 400 and 500.

>> wow.

>> so people are spending all their time raising money instead of governing which is what we're expected to do here.

>> here's the other question i have. there's a troep that we have in the progressive press and on this network about, these republicans are the worst republicans ever, and they're just so extreme. and i believe that. i don't say it because i don't believe it. but i also wonder what your perspective, having served with an earlier cohort of republicans , are these republicans , particularly house . house republicans , are they more extreme, are they more willing to ascent to norms in place?

>> i was surprised to see the extent they subscribe to the grover norquist philosophy, which norquist has said time and time again, let's squeeze the federal government down to a size so small we can get it into a bathtub and drown it. and that seems to be the philosophy of the extreme right, which is making governance virtually impossible for boehner . can't put together a majority for anything. there's only been like 22 bills that have been passed that have become law. a bunch of those are naming post offices .

>> a bunch of the other big ones had the votes supplied by nancy pelosi , the democrats, to actually get --

>> exactly. hurricane sandy, the debt ceiling, violence against women .

>> when you take away those and you take away the post office namings you're basically left with the obama repeal votes and that's what you have. congress man rick nolan of minnesota, thank you so much, it's always a pleasure to talk with you.

>>> after years without any substantial progress across the country, one city has a bold plan to help struggling homeowners. the city's mayor joins me next.