Congress: Still Not a Fun Place to Be a Bill

Matt Berman and Brian Fung

On Thursday afternoon, the farm bill was eaten by the House of Representatives. The $940 billion measure, which would have cut $2 billion annually from SNAP—the food-stamp program—was defeated 195-234, with 62 Republicans voting against it. Twenty-four Democrats voted for the bill. The bill's failure was largely blamed on the food-stamp cuts—much too large for many Democrats, much too small for many Republicans. As of this writing, there is still a lot of yelling on the House floor.

What does all this mean? Should we act surprised when supposedly bipartisan bills pass the Senate, knowing they'll just be bludgeoned to death in the House?

Maybe we shouldn't. After all, Congress has managed to pass only 14 laws this year. And big issues—like, you know, jobs—have gone untouched.

And this isn't just about the farm bill. What happened Thursday may not bode well at all for comprehensive immigration reform. Just ask political reporters on Twitter:

And, of course, House members and politicos from both sides are acting quick to spin this into a victory for their party, and a tragedy for the other:

In Congress these days, celebrating failure has become the only winning strategy.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the number of laws passed by Congress this year. The Animal Drug and Animal Generic Drug User Fee Reauthorization Act of 2013 brought the total to 14.