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Is this the 'worst Congress ever'?
The debt ceiling showdown has revealed Washington's deepening divisions, and aversion to compromise of any sort
 
House Speaker John Boehner wields the gavel on the opening day of the 112th Congress in January: Political scientist Norman Ornstein says Boehner's Congress is the worst in U.S. history.
House Speaker John Boehner wields the gavel on the opening day of the 112th Congress in January: Political scientist Norman Ornstein says Boehner's Congress is the worst in U.S. history.
Xinhua/CORBIS

The acrimonious debate over raising the debt ceiling has shined a spotlight on partisan rancor in Washington. Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, who wrote a 2006 book saying Congress was "broken," now says at Foreign Policy that hardliners in both parties have gained such "inordinate power" that compromise, even on crucial matters such as keeping the government from defaulting on its debt for the first time ever, is essentially dead. Even back in 1969, when the country was deeply divided over the Vietnam War, Capitol Hill was "considerably less dysfunctional" than it is now. Is this really the "worst Congress ever"?

Yes. And it won't get better anytime soon: It's hard to argue that the 112th Congress isn't "the worst one ever," says The Economist. It's even more depressing when you realize that this is not a temporary shift due to transient factors, such as the rise of the Tea Party, but "the culmination of a long period of realignment in American politics" that has left the parties polarized. Things are likely to get even worse in 2012, as redistricting and acrimonious primaries pick off more moderates, one by one.
"Worst Congress ever?"

Congress is only as bad as GOP obstructionists make it: The debt-ceiling showdown has "laid bare the degree to which our political system has become dangerously dysfunctional," says John Farmer at the Newark Star-Ledger. The nation's Founders divided power among the different branches of government to serve their ideal of checks and balances. "But for that to work, compromise is a must, not something malevolent," as a growing bloc of my-way-or-the-highway Republicans now seem to view it.
"Debt ceiling struggle exposing dysfunction in the U.S. political system"

Blame the self-serving motivations of both parties: Republicans are afraid Tea Partiers will stay home in 2012 unless they cut spending at all costs, says Charlie Cook at The Atlantic. Democrats made the same mistake in 2009 and 2010, when they "obsessed about their base and ignored independent and swing voters." Both sides would do well to remember that independents often tip elections, and they hate all this "sophomoric, partisan towel-snapping" — they just want Washington to function.
"Memo to the GOP: Focus on independents"

 

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