Capitol Hill (CNN) - Is gridlock the new normal in Congress?
Julie Hassett, whose livelihood is impacted by the answer, says yes.
"It's just stressful to be a business owner in this environment," said Hassett, who is a founding partner at the government contracting firm Hassett Willis.
She shook her head and added, "This is kind of the way Washington's going to be now."
Listen to Julie and to our look at gridlock – good and bad – in this week's American Sauce.
Hassett is one of many contractors who have seen jobs and money frozen throughout the past few years as Congress has delayed or avoided routine spending and policy decisions.
She believes lawmakers have no idea how much their seeming gridlock affects real people.
"Congress is so far removed from the reality of what all these big political discussions have," Hassett said.
The examples of the political pileup are vast: The Super Committee – created because Congress couldn't agree on the deficit – now cannot seem to agree itself. Government has nearly shut down twice this year due to stalemate. (Some agencies and projects did shut down temporarily.) Congress now approves most federal funding in last-minute "continuing resolutions" that simply extend past decisions. And last year, lawmakers set the all-time record for filibuster votes in the Senate.
Not to mention that Congress has entirely given up on major issues such as immigration and energy.
Despite all that, not everyone agrees this is gridlock, yet.
"If anything, gridlock is just getting started," said Georgetown government professor Jeffry Burnam. "Because I don't think they've been gridlocked up to now."
Burnam, who spent two decades working on Capitol Hill, says that historically, most Congresses pass about a dozen major bills. He maintains that the 112th Congress is still within reach of that, but he believes true gridlock could set in once the 2012 elections get in full swing.
"We have a serious question whether Congress is able to solve the nation's problems," Burnam concluded.
For more on what gridlock means, including an audio essay from someone who says it can be good, listen to this week's podcast.
You can also listen to American Sauce on iTunes, Stitcher or subscribe to the podcast via RSS.
- CNN's Dan Szematowicz, Jonathan Binder and Emma Lacey-Bordeaux contributed to this report.