2013: The Year in Congress

Dec 30, 2013

This wasn’t a pretty year in Washington and Virginia lawmakers are as upset about it as voters.

Ask any lawmaker and they understand why Congress hit new lows in public approval during 2013.
But there’s bipartisan agreement on at least one thing in Washington. Virginia Republican Scott Rigell agrees it was a frustrating year.

“It’s been a challenging year for Congress, it’s been a challenging year for the American people.”
Republicans spent the year honing in on so called Obamacare. The GOP may have overplayed its hand though. House Republicans demanded a one year delay to the health law. Democrats refused. That’s when the government shut down for sixteen long days.

Voters blame Republicans for the shutdown. Even so, Virginia Republican Morgan Griffith says he doesn’t regret the fight. “A lot of people felt that we had to make the last ditch effort to try to stop it, slow it down, do whatever we could. That might not have been the tactic I would have chosen, but it was a fight worth making.”

It was a bumpy rollout for the health law. Healthcare dot Gov went live with a whimper as screens froze and the administration brought in a fresh tech team to overhaul the site. The health law even earned President Obama the dubious title of Lie of the Year from fact checking site Politifact for his “If you like your health plan you can keep it” promise.

Griffith says his party isn’t letting up.  “The year of the first battle of Obamacare, maybe the second. Next year will be similar, and we will see what the American people want in the fall of 2014.”

While immigration reform passed the Senate with a broad bipartisan coalition, it remains untouched in the Republican controlled House. A bipartisan bill to curb discrimination against the LGBT community was also left hanging out there. This Congress is now being labeled the least productive in history.

Congressman Moran blames House Republican leaders for all the gridlock. “They’ve passed about 60 bills and none of them have been of consequence and virtually nothing has gotten done.”

Republicans like Griffith see it differently. “Well, its always frustrating when you pass a lot of good bills, and they go over to the Senate never to see the light of day.”

And Congressman Rigell says sometimes no bill is better than a bad bill. “It would certainly be incomplete in my view to just look at the sheer quantity. Now I think that’s one indicator, but I think one that trumps that would be the quality of the legislation that was advanced.”

Over in the Senate things did grind to halt when it came to presidential nominees. Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner and other newer members to the chamber have been calling for filibuster reform for some time. They finally got a chance to change the rules so that a simple majority of 51 lawmakers are now needed to nominate judges and presidential nominees. That made Republicans bristle, but Warner has no regrets.

“I do feel a president, a governor ought to get his, or her team in a way that allows the enterprise to function. This would go the same to a republican president going forward. I do hope everybody takes a deep breath now, and recognizes end of the day, trying to find a way to get back to working together.”

If there was any cherry on top for the year, many lawmakers are pointing to the bipartisan budget agreement that passed both chambers with broad support. It unwinds sequestration’s budget cuts for the next two years – alleviating a lot of cuts in the commonwealth. That made Virginia Republican Congressman Rob Wittman breathe a sigh of relief.  “The good news is, we finally got a budget done.”

Lawmakers have a new legislative year waiting for them when they get back to Washington in January. It’s an election year. So if you thought 2013 was too politicized, you may want to buckle up.