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Editorial: Nation deserves better, so 113th should step up

No matter what came out of the 112th U.S. Congress regarding the "fiscal cliff," the session will go down as one of the most unproductive in history. The dismal record is a result of partisan divisions embodied in large part by the extreme right in the House and the extreme left in the Senate. Both chambers seem to have been captive of a relatively small number of uncompromising ideologues, the result being legislative paralysis.

The blame game has been center stage for months. But offstage the drama has featured leaders on both sides of the political aisle who have been unable to lead -- that is, convince the most intransigent members of their caucuses that their job is to get things done, not obstruct everything.

Consider the failures of the 112th:

• A farm bill that passed the Senate with bipartisan support, and passed the U.S. House ag committee, has languished in the House. The Senate bill is a good one, yet a few members of the House don't like a few provisions, so nothing gets done.

• The Violence against Women Act, which previously has enjoyed wide bipartisan support and was reauthorized twice before, is stalled. A Senate version and a House version have yet to be reconciled.

• The struggling U.S. Postal Service is losing buckets of money, but legislation to stem the bleeding, which passed the Senate, is blocked in the House.

And so it goes as the old Congress wraps up its work today and makes way for the new one on Thursday. Given minor political changes in both chambers, it is a safe bet the 113th will be as ineffective as the 112th.

It is no wonder polls show Americans hold Congress in contempt -- its approval rating is in the single digits. Surely, this is not the best the nation can do.