Why was the 112th Congress the least productive in history? What is the reason for the dysfunction?
Cal State Channel Islands political science professors Scott Frisch and Sean Kelly took a plausible stab at the answer in an op-ed published last week in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. They blame it on the Republican leadership's decision to eliminate earmarks. Without earmarks, they argue, Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team were left without an important tool to bargain with individual members to secure their votes on important measures.
Frisch and Kelley are the authors of the 2010 book, "Cheese Factories on the Moon: Why Earmarks are Good for American Democracy."
In their op-ed, Frisch and Kelley note: "Earmarks can be used to incrementally
entice members to support the leadership on politically risky votes. Voting in favor of the fiscal cliff deal might have been the 'right thing to do,' but for
many Republicans an 'aye' vote promised nothing but grief at home and nothing positive in return. It is no wonder Boehner was forced to pass the bill with Democratic votes.
"The simple fact of the matter is this: The easiest vote to cast in Congress is 'no.' If members of Congress can vote 'no' repeatedly and without consequence, it is no surprise that Congress fails to act on many important issues."