Legislating was easier on Schoolhouse Rock

March 4, 2015

Remember the 1975 Schoolhouse Rock classic “I’m Just a Bill“? It describes the process of how a bill becomes a law with a succinct, sing-songy ease. On paper—and in song—the process is easy but fraught. Our sad little scrap of paper sings:

I’m just a bill
Yes, I’m only a bill,
And I got as far as Capitol Hill
Well, now I’m stuck in committee
And I’ll sit here and wait
While a few key Congressmen discuss and debate

As this Reuters graphic shows, by all measures, the amount of legislation that has made its way to the Oval Office has shrunk since President Obama—and the 111th Congress—took office in 2009. In the 1990s, President Clinton famously clashed with the Republican-controlled ‘Contract with America‘ Congress, resulting in 47 vetoes over the last six years of his tenure. By comparison, facing a no-less-contentious Congress, President Obama only used his veto power three times.

The years of gridlock appear to have gotten to President Obama, who in November sidestepped Congress and announced an executive order on immigration, prompting Saturday Night Live to do a send-up of the old “I’m Just a Bill” song: “I’m an executive order/And I pretty much just happen.” Indeed, not very collegial.

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