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Making the 'Do-Nothing Congress' look great by comparison

In his second term, President Harry Truman condemned the snail's pace at which lawmakers actually got some work done, labeling it a "Do-Nothing" Congress. After all, the 80th Congress (1947-1948) only passed 906 bills over its two-year period.

The current Congress, by comparison, has passed just 196 bills, easily the lowest total since the U.S. House Clerk's office started keeping track. Consider the progress in chart form, which should drive home just how unproductive the 112th Congress (2011-2012) really is.

In fairness, I should note that the current Congress still has another month to go, and I suppose it's possible that there will be a flurry of progress and constructive policymaking. But given partisan differences and a shrinking calendar, I'm pretty comfortable with the notion that this will be the least productive of any modern Congress by a large margin.

This is not, by the way, the inevitable result of divided government (one party controlling the House; the other party controlling the Senate). There have been plenty of other Congresses, some quite recently, with a Democratic Senate and a Republican House, but their bill totals weren't nearly this anemic.

When evaluating whether this is, in fact, the worst Congress ever, keep this tidbit in mind.