The legislation gap

THE LEGISLATION GAP…. When House members complain about the Senate, it’s worth remembering that their concerns have real merit. As recently as February, there were 82 bills that had passed the House, waiting for Senate consideration. The number is considerably higher now.

When the Senate returns from its summer break in September, lawmakers will have quite a full plate of legislation to address: 372 bills, to be exact.

That’s the number of bills passed by the House that are awaiting action in the Senate, according to an updated list provided to The Hill…. And with the midterm elections in high gear and partisan rancor already poisoning a potential lame-duck session after November, it’s likely most of the House-passed bills will stay on the shelf.

A large legislation gap between the House and Senate is not unusual; the Senate was designed, in the famous description by George Washington, as a cooling saucer. But food left out to cool too long will spoil, and so will federal legislation: By law, if a bill is not passed by both chambers in the same Congress, it must be re-introduced in January.

Also note, it’s not just the House that’s frustrated — the White House has sent nominations for judges and administration officials to the Senate, and like the House bills, they’ve gotten stuck, thanks to scandalous Republican abuses and delaying tactics. It’s what happens when one petty minority decides to deliberately break a once-great institution.

Of course, once the new Congress is sworn in early next year, this phenomenon will go from embarrassing to farcical, when GOP gains, and likely control of the House, destroy any hopes of legislating before 2013, at the earliest.