House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer is a fixture on Capitol Hill.
His career in Congress began in 1981, and with all of his institutional knowledge, he cannot recall a more do-nothing body than the 112th. [Republicans Calling Democrats' Bluff on Bush Tax Cuts.]
"This Congress is perhaps the least productive, most combative body for which I've served," Hoyer said during a breakfast with reporters. "Even more so than the 1995 session, and the reason for that is that there are fewer moderate Republicans who are willing to sit down at the table."
With economic freight trains coming in all directions, Hoyer says the only silver lining in the slow legislative year is that after the election, the so-called lame-duck session could be the most productive in history.
"Failure to do that will affect the economy, and it will hurt the reputation of the [country] overseas," Hoyer says. [See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]
Hoyer argues while countries like Greece don't have the resources to handle their own economic meltdowns, the U.S. has the means "it needs the courage and political will to do so."
At the end of the year, the so-called Bush tax cuts expire, including the estate tax, the payroll tax, the dividends tax, and unemployment insurance.
And beginning in January, automatic budget cuts--including billions from defense--begin if Congress doesn't develop an alternative plan of action.
Hoyer is optimistic that after the election, with the fiscal cliff looming, Congress will sit down, roll up its sleeves, and develop a balanced plan complete both with tax increases and spending cuts.
Hoyer says his interactions with House Speaker John Boehner indicate Republican leadership is on the same page that negotiating a compromise is crucial to keep the country from a double-dip recession.
"When it comes to the sequester," Hoyer says of the mandatory defense cuts called for in a debt-ceiling deal passed last summer, "I think all of us agree it is an irrational alternative."
Boehner has struggled in the past to lead his majority in the House to an agreement, but Hoyer says if Boehner can secure 120 votes, Hoyer's confident he can make up the difference on the other side of the aisle to seal the deal.
The Congress won't be operating in isolation, though. The election results are an important indicator of how productive the Congress will be. [See How a Do-Nothing Congress is Stalling the Economy.]
Hoyer predicts that if President Barack Obama wins re-election, Congress will be more effective than if Republican nominee Mitt Romney wins 2012 because the legislative body might be tempted to wait for its new president's lead.