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Why a Do-Nothing Congress Helps Both Parties in Elections

Grace Wallack and Elaine Kamarck

With Congress in recess this month, many are looking back at what they’ve done in the past year, and how their performance (or lack thereof) will play out in the November elections. In the Brookings Cafeteria Podcast, John Hudak discusses the political benefit that a do-nothing Congress can actually have for elections.

People still overwhelmingly disapprove of this Congress– and by most measures they have been historically unproductive— but despite this, the do-nothing Congress actually benefits both sides during the election cycle.

Democrats can point to the Republicans in Congress as stalling or blocking legislation on issues that are important to Americans, and use that as a call for change. Conversely, congressional inaction allows Republicans to avoid taking strong positions on hard issues such as immigration, the Affordable Care Act, or budget deficits, which they would rather kick down the road until after the election in the fall. This dynamic can be very frustrating, Hudak says, but there is political benefit from it to both sides.

However, Congress hasn’t been completely absent. They recently passed a Veteran’s Administration reform bill to respond to the scandal at the VA, which was both significant and enjoyed bipartisan support.

Listen to the full audio segment below. 

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