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Congressional gridlock said hurting US economy

Keywords: Tags  Congressional policy, President Obama, regulatory agencies, John Boehner, John Anton, IHS Global Insight, Eileen Bradner, Nucor Thomas Danjczek

CHICAGO — Congress consists of a bunch of "babyish 3-year-olds in a sandbox," one steel industry analyst said. "Everyone is willing to harm the economy in order to make the other guy look bad."

The problem, if left unchecked, could ultimately lop 0.7 percent off of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) growth, according to John Anton, steel analyst at Lexington, Mass.-based IHS Global Insight Inc. "It has real consequences," he said at the Platts 9th Annual Steel Markets North America Conference in Chicago.

Saying that both political parties were responsible for this "self-inflicted stupidity," the analyst called for "a plague on both their houses."

Anton wasn’t alone in citing Congress, the administration and the regulatory agencies as obstacles to economic growth.

Steel Manufacturers Association president Thomas Danjczek described the president’s leadership on the regulatory front as "Obamageddon."

Meanwhile, "as our government moves from crisis to crisis, it sucks the energy out of the room," Eileen Bradner, senior director and counsel for federal government affairs at Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor Corp, told conference attendees. A Washington lobbyist for 32 years, Bradner recalled when senators from opposite sides of the aisle maintained friendships and socialized together, often with their families.

"Now, if you move your family to Washington, you’ve betrayed your constituents and it’s used in an attack ad against you," she said.

Even GOP stalwart Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) was friends with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D., Mass.), delivering a eulogy for the New England lawmaker in 2009. "But that worked against him in Utah," Bradner said.

And while Congress fails to work together, important posts remain vacant. Litigation over recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board from two years ago still lingers in the courts, she said.

But Bradner thinks the congressional freeze will thaw if members are at all influenced by continued public opinion polls showing that "Americans are really sick of it," she said. House Speaker John Boehner let two votes go to the floor without getting his own caucus on board, and instead relied on minority Democratic votes.

And if Congress doesn’t get its act together on legislation, she said, President Obama has repeatedly promised administrative action. He wants them to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution on climate change, for example.

But Bradner conceded that she doesn’t expect Congress to pass anything related to climate change in the near future. Rather, she expects legislators to introduce bills attempting to slow down Environmental Protection Agency rulings.

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