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USA Today - Pelosi: Do-nothing Congress Didn't Have to Be that Way

Op-Ed

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By Representative Nancy Pelosi

According to a new poll, nearly nine out of 10 Americans disapprove of the 112th Congress -- and for good reason. This is one of the least productive Congresses in history, reported USA TODAY -- even worse than the "do-nothing Congress" President Truman lambasted in 1948.

It doesn't have to work this way, even with a House controlled by Republicans and a White House and Senate controlled by Democrats. Recent history proves this point.

In 2006, after 12 years of GOP majorities, Democrats assumed control of the House and Senate. My colleagues in the House elected me to serve as speaker for the last two years of the Bush administration. No matter who occupied the Oval Office, Democrats in Congress knew we could not let partisan differences stand in the way of doing the work of the American people.

After the Republicans regained the House majority in 2010, I pledged in these pages that Democrats would work across the aisle on "solutions that reflect our priorities and address our nation's challenges." Yet Republicans refused, instead obstructing every initiative proposed by the Obama administration despite the president's efforts to cooperate.

Compare this record with the Democratic Congress of 2007-09. With the economy weakening and two wars underway, there were significant policy differences between Democrats and the Bush White House. But from Day One, Democrats focused on moving our nation forward. Rather than set up roadblocks, we worked across the aisle with President Bush and many Republican colleagues.

Though we never compromised principles, we did seek common ground to achieve results. From the start, we acted to strengthen workers by increasing the minimum wage for the first time in more than a decade. We worked with President Bush to jump-start our economy with recovery rebates for 130 million American families, even though Democrats preferred including investments to create jobs rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges.

To promote the industries of the future and safeguard national security, we enacted the comprehensive Energy Independence and Security Act, raising fuel-efficiency standards for the first time in 32 years, investing in renewables and biofuels while creating clean energy jobs. We followed up with the COMPETES Act to support high-tech jobs, extend math and science education and boost research.

To honor the sacrifice of those in uniform, Congress passed a new GI Bill, providing education to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. We passed the Mental Health Parity Act, ending health insurance discrimination against the mentally ill. And Democrats led the way to rebuild trust with voters by passing landmark lobbying and ethics reform.

When the Treasury secretary warned of an imminent collapse of our financial system, we worked together on a bill that protected taxpayers, required loans to be repaid with interest, and prevented the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The Democratic House passed more than 230 key measures, with over 70% receiving bipartisan backing. By the end of 2008, in all, President Bush signed 460 laws passed by the Democratic Congress. Thus far, we can only say the same about 169 laws in the current Republican House.

The record is clear: The source of congressional inaction today is a Republican congressional leadership that cannot, or will not, govern; that will not put aside partisanship to work together.

The accomplishments of the Democratic Congress of 2007-09 demonstrate how Democrats worked with a Republican president to address serious issues despite partisan differences. It is a lesson not learned by the current Republican House leadership.

Nancy Pelosi is the House Democratic leader.


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