Congressional gridlock: the new normal?
November 18th, 2011
04:56 PM ET
2 years ago

Congressional gridlock: the new normal?

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.


Filed under: American Sauce • Congress • Debt • Deficit • Deficit commission
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. GOP = Greed Over People

    Yes it is the new normal, and our form of government will fail, as it is based on compromise.

    History will show this was the cause for the decline of this great country.

    But, hey, the GOP will have accomplished it's stated agenda for President Obama and therefore, "America to fail".

    November 18, 2011 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  2. John

    This has got to be the worse Congress America ever had. And I think It because of the Leadership of Congress that Is the Biggest problem. John Boehner and Eric Cantor have got to be the Worse Speaker and number 1 Guy ever. They stand around and try to look like Gods or something. There Is No Compromise In this Congress at all and that to come back to John Boehner and Eric Cantor because they are not trying to to get the Republican to Compromise on anything at all. And all These Pledges the Republican have sign should not be legal. They all ready took a Oath of office and they are suppose to be working for all American People NOT just special group of People.

    November 18, 2011 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  3. David

    The Repubs did the same in Clintons first term, it is either them being sore losers or part of a political strategy that puts their party ahead of the peoples interests.

    November 18, 2011 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  4. hunter

    It is sad that this is becoming normal. I think our politicians have completely forgotten that their responsibility and their loyalty should belong wholly to the American people, not to their party's agenda. Political parties come and go–as our history shows–and the continuation of this country as a prosperous nation is essential. And sadly, most Americans are more apt to blame our problems on one party or group, but here's the truth: Our country was built by people with different ideas and political standings and it is going to take more than one group to tear us apart. Both Democrats and Republicans have contributed to this.

    November 18, 2011 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  5. diridi

    Idiotic GOP....that's all....o.k, vote all these idiots of congress out of office in next election, nation is better off...

    November 18, 2011 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  6. Keith in Austin

    @David: "the republicans did the same thing during Clinton's 1st term being sore losers and putting themselves first before the People's interest"

    I suggest you check your facts before showing your ignorance. The GOP's "Contract with America" headed by Newt Gingrich, lead to a Budget Surplus in Clinton's 2nd Term that Democrats still take credit for. The truth however is during his 1st term, Clinton was initially a left wing, tax-and-spend Liberal. Because of his adept political skill and sense of the will of the Nation, he soon adopted Centrist/more conservative policies which led to the surplus. Make no mistake about it, the GOP led the way in making that happen! I only wish the will of our people today was the same as it was back then. Today, it's all about class envy, ignorance or expecting others to compensate for what we once did for ourselves. Very sad.

    November 18, 2011 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  7. Slightly Left of Center

    Congressional gridlock: the new normal?

    New? When was the last time it was not gridlocked?

    November 18, 2011 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  8. GI Joe

    If we get rid of all the radical baggers, WE can take our government back. Otherwise, this will be the norm for years to come - not pretty, is it? Koch, Armey, Rove (bagger $$) need to be shown the door.

    November 18, 2011 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  9. A disgusted former Republican

    republicans are obstinate obstructionists! Get used to it if you vote for any republicans in the next election.

    November 18, 2011 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  10. Ray E. (Georgia)

    Humm,
    How long is it that the Democrat Controlled Senate has passed a Budget? Will they pass the one now on Overtime? I am amazed of how igornant(stupid) a lot of people are posting here. Open your eyes and look at what is going on! Don't blame the Republician Controlled House. They passed a Budget! Now it is up to the Senate!

    November 18, 2011 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |