The Do-Nothing Congress

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The 109th Congress might well be remembered more for what it didn't do than what it did. Sharyl Attkisson has more.
CBS

Last spring, senators announced a deal on immigration reform. But the measure never had a chance in the House. And now, like so much else, it isn't even a long shot, CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports.

A CBS News/New York Times poll finds 75 percent of voters can't name one thing Congress has accomplished.

"They haven't passed anything," Susan Blu says.

Matthew Luther Cooke agrees. "I don't know what Congress has done. I feel like they've done nothing. If they'd done something, I want to know about it," he says.

It's not as if Congress really has been sitting around doing nothing. Today, the House passed the bill providing for military tribunals for enemy combatants. But as Congress prepares for a recess, there are many big-ticket items still dangling.

You could give Congress an "incomplete" on issues including immigration, port security, lobby reform, and even domestic wiretapping.

Democrats say "don't blame us."

"We don't control the Congress. The majority party does," says Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.

By "majority party," he means the Republicans, who control the House and Senate. They should be able to pass whatever they want — the problem is that they haven't agreed on much.

"Whether it's health insurance reform, whether it's energy reform, it just stops in the Senate," says Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa.

He should know. Peterson's bill to open up drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf passed the House, but is dead in the Senate.

"It seems like every major issue is coming to a screeching halt in the Senate," Peterson says.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., says it's just checks and balances at work. "Some of the things that come out of the House need to come to a screeching halt in the Senate," Graham says.

Graham gives Congress a B+ for issues like pension reform and the Patriot Act, which both the House and Senate passed this year.

But what about the real toughies?

When it comes to dealing with Social Security and Medicare and those problems that loom large, Graham says he gives Congress a D.

Congress is expected return after elections, but there's always the question over whether they'll be motivated to do anything ... that's why they call it a "lame duck session."