- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2010

What comes to mind when you think of “the worst”? President James Buchanan. The 1962 Mets. Vanilla Ice. Now add to that list the 111th Congress, which is finally slated to wrap up business this week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just didn’t want to give up that gavel. This may have been the worst Congress since Lyndon Johnson’s landslide ushered in the Congress that gave us the Great Society and the Vietnam War. Memo to voters: Democratic landslides are usually followed by disastrous results.

The 111th Congress got off to a fast start. Barely two weeks into the Obama era, it enacted an $800 billion stimulus bill, the largest in American history. Why take any time to study the contents when you know exactly what to do? The problem was that most of the money went to states to preserve the jobs of government workers. Some stimulus. The president said it would keep unemployment at 8 percent. It is now near 10 percent.

Next came the infamous “cash for clunkers” program, which disrupted the used-car market, mandated destruction of perfectly usable older vehicles and subsidized purchases of autos, most of which would have been purchased in any case. But coming in tandem with the Obama administration giving the auto unions a huge share of a new government-run General Motors, the United Auto Workers were quite satisfied.

The 111th Congress then turned its attention to health care. Despite America’s dire fiscal circumstances and overwhelming evidence that the American public did not support it, the majority of Democrats rammed through a new health care entitlement that certainly will raise taxes, federal spending and the deficit to new heights if the bill takes full effect on its scheduled date in 2014. It also places added pressure on existing entitlements Medicare and Medicaid, which are underfunded. Obamacare may be the worst piece of legislation passed by any Congress since the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act guaranteed the Great Depression.

The goal of the 111th Congress all along was to quietly increase taxes to pay for this spending spree. That was the hidden goal of climate-change legislation. The original bill envisioned massive new taxes in the tens of billions on carbon emissions from industrial concerns. When that failed, more than one member of the 111th Congress was prepared to support a value-added tax (VAT), which was to have been sold as the only alternative to federal bankruptcy.

Fortunately, the elections of Republican governors in Virginia and New Jersey in 2009 and Scott Brown’s upset Senate win in Massachusetts made many Democrats back off from these grandiose plans.

The 111th Congress looked the other way when it came to any meaningful oversight of a runaway executive branch. There have been exactly zero hearings on the unfolding implementation of Obamacare. Two appointees acting without Senate confirmation are hard at work writing regulations for Obamacare and for a brand-new consumer bureaucracy established as a result of a financial services bill. Neither has been called before the 111th Congress. The 111th Congress also has looked the other way as the Obama administration has installed more than 30 “czars” to run policy throughout the federal government. None has been confirmed by the Senate.

The 111th Congress did not enact a budget or a single appropriations bill for the current fiscal year, fearing that any discussion of our dire fiscal circumstances would be harmful to Democrats in the midterm elections. They lost the House anyway. That led to the spectacle of a lame-duck session in which the repudiated Congress tried to legislate a tax increase, yet another trillion-dollar spending bill that included more double-digit increases in spending and other liberal priorities. It’s almost as if members realize that their moment will not come again for a very long time.

The numbers for the 111th Congress aren’t pretty: Record high unemployment for nearly two years, virtually no economic growth, double-digit spending increases in nearly every budget category, more than $3 trillion of new debt and the costs of Obamacare on the way.

We’ll be paying the price of the 111th Congress for years to come, but we’ve learned a valuable lesson: This is what happens when liberals are put in charge of the federal government.

Frank Donatelliis chairman of GOPAC.