Our current members of Congress are paid $174,000 a year. That's about four times the median income of United States citizens. And that doesn't include all the benefits they get -- like a generous retirement program, excellent health insurance, franking privileges, and government-paid travel expenses. And many of them will tell you they are still underpaid for all the "hard work" that they do.
But are they really a hard-working bunch of legislators? Not really. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank has taken a look at this Congress, and here is some of what he has to say:
If you were to stroll by the House chamber today ? or tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that ? you would arrive at the ideal time to see what the lawmakers do best: absolutely nothing.
It?s another recess week for our lazy leaders. Oh, sorry: ?Constituent Work Week? is what they?re calling it these days, as if lawmakers were filling potholes and making calls to Social Security rather than raising campaign cash.
By the time the Republican-led House returns next week, members will have been working in Washington on just 41 of the first 127 days of 2012 ? and that was the busy part of the year. They are planning to be on vacation ? er, doing ?constituent work? ? 17 of the year?s remaining 34 weeks, and even when they are in town the typical workweek is three days.
To call this 112th Congress a do-nothing Congress would be an insult ? to the real Do-Nothing Congress of 1947-48. That Congress passed 908 laws. To date, this one has passed 106 public laws. Even if they triple that output in the rest of 2012 ? not a terribly likely proposition ? they will still be in last place going back at least 40 years.
Doing nothing would arguably be preferable to what the House is actually doing. Lawmakers have staged 195 roll-call votes so far this year, which sounds like a lot until you realize that boils down to only about 60 pieces of legislation, including post-office namings.
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