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Whether or not there is a deal, the weeks since the election have produced a stark display of political gridlock. "The government is not working," said Steve Bell, senior director of the Bipartisan Policy Center, who was a senior budget adviser to Senate Republicans for many years. "There is no doubt that the policy-making apparatus in this town has collapsed."
Following the tea-party wave in the 2010 election, the 112th Congress looks set to be the least productive in recent history. By the end of November, the House had passed 146 bills over the previous two years, by far the smallest number for any Congress since 1948. The Senate passed fewer bills in 2012 than in any year since at least 1992.
Rather than smoothing over differences, the November election appears to have hardened them. "We came out of the election with both sides thinking they won and had an equal mandate," said Ross Baker, a professor at Rutgers University who is now interviewing lawmakers on Capitol Hill for a book on bipartisanship. "One problem is we don't have a common narrative to guide us."
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