However low an opinion Americans have of the U.S. Congress, we can probably all agree that doing a good job there has never been easy, even under the best circumstance. People aren't automatons - viewpoints can differ between any two of us, let alone among 535 members of the House and Senate, and of course, there's also the President. It's no small wonder that many cooks can ever produce sausage - even unpalatable ones. As the Founding Fathers intended? Perhaps. Either way, candidates for President, nearly without exception, assert: they are the ones who can get things done, in Washington. It's a critical distinction, Hillary Clinton contends, between herself and Senator Sanders.
There is, in addition, a Record. Which one candidates invariably invoke at a particular point in time isn't always clear, but the U.S. Library of Congress presents one worth considering in advance of the upcoming New York democratic primary.
It is, among other things, a factual reckoning of Bills sponsored by members of Congress, which tells us something about sponsors' legislative priorities and, in turn, how we might square their priorities with their recent rhetoric. And by revealing the extent a member's sponsored Bills have been enacted into law, the LOC provides at least some measure for assessing, in this instance, a presidential candidate's capacity to actually get things done.
Compared with the level of congressional gridlock associated with the Obama Administration, Mrs. Clinton's Senate service (2001 - 2009) occurred during fat times and, in fairness to her, under mostly Republican majorities. By contrast, while the period of Mr. Sanders's service in the Senate (2007 - present) is of comparable duration, its appetite for getting things done has been, and continues to be, anorexic. Supporters of Mrs. Clinton might also hasten to point out that, in their view, she remained during her Senate years the same target for hyper-partisan witch-hunting they would say she has been throughout much of her public life.
Fair enough. But what of the Record?
Mrs. Clinton sponsored 363 Bills, of which 3 were enacted into law: one renamed a highway; one renamed a post office; one established a national historic site. During that time, by comparison, New York's senior Senator, Charles Schumer, sponsored 890 Bills, of which 12 were enacted into law: five renamed a post office; one renamed a court house; the others included protecting children from sexual predators on the internet, processing U.S. citizenship for members of our military, and criminal background checking, among other policy areas.
And Mr. Sanders?
According to the LOC, his Senate batting average arises from sponsoring 155 Bills, of which 2 were enacted into law. And while it reflects a similar propensity towards renaming a post office, it also reflects enactment into law of the Veteran's Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2013, his shining achievement he frequently reminds voters of during his bid for the White House. He has, similarly, also reminded them that no single person, including himself should he be elected President, can get things done in the present environment of what he's famously dubbed establishment politics. It continues to be his basis for the political revolution he relentlessly professes as necessary, if we are to address the truly vexing issues of our times.
Batting averages for both he and Mrs. Clinton appear at least in line with his assertion. Yet the extent to which voters remain to be persuaded, or will consider the content of enacted Bills sponsored by them, remains unclear.
Equally unclear, is the extent Mrs. Clinton rejects the premise of Senator Sanders's campaign. She acknowledges, as does the Senator, that policy differences between them pale by comparison to ones each of them has with Republicans seeking the same office. Rather, the linchpin of her campaign messaging relies heavily on staking claim to her own assertion - that she is the one who can actually get things done.