In addition, just 219 bills have been passed into law — the lowest number since Congress began tracking this number in the 1940s. (And many of these bills were naming courthouses or post offices.) The previous low was 333 in the 104th Congress (1995-1996). Throughout its history, of course, Congress has always been a dysfunctional place; in fact, the Founding Fathers ensured it that way (with the federal government’s checks and balances). But this particular Congress, which comes to an end on Jan. 3, has been uniquely dysfunctional. Just consider: the current fiscal-cliff debate, the debt-ceiling standoff of 2011 that resulted in an S&P credit downgrade, the Super Committee’s failure, the near government shutdown in the spring of 2011, the defeat of the U.N. Disabilities treaty, etc. With the debt ceiling, the fiscal cliff, and the near government shutdown, it’s hard not to conclude that Congress has been an active player in the sluggishness of the U.S. economy.