Progress Report: What's Divided Congress Accomplished This Year?

PHOTO: House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, surrounded by Republican House members speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 20, 2011.

The House of Representatives and Senate concluded their business for 2011 Friday, bringing an end to the 112th Congress's first legislative session. This bitterly divided Congress will surely be remembered for its showdowns over government spending, but what exactly has it accomplished with half of the two-year term in the books?

Republicans swept into the House majority promising the American people that business as usual was over. No more earmarks. No more bills passed in the middle of the night. Republican leaders promised to shepherd a "cut and grow" majority to get the economy moving again.

House Speaker John Boehner seized the gavel on Jan. 5, marking the end of the Nancy Pelosi's speakership and the beginning of the new Republican majority.

But three days later as the House prepared to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, tragedy struck when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was wounded in the head during a shooting spree at a "Congress on Your Corner" event that killed six constituents and a young congressional staffer named Gabe Zimmerman.

No moment this year would parallel the sensation when Giffords returned to the House chamber to cast a vote to pass the debt limit agreement. Giffords would later share her grueling recovery in an exclusive interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer.

Throughout the year, the partisan battle over cutting the nation's soaring deficit consumed the political oxygen in the Capitol.

All year long, in order to keep government's doors open, Congress repeatedly passed stop-gap continuing resolutions to fund the government on an incremental basis. Finally on Friday, President Obama signed an omnibus package of appropriations bills to fund the government through the end of FY2012, Sept. 30.

But no fight better captures the character of the 112th Congress than the battle over raising the debt ceiling.

In his first interview after the midterm elections last year, Diane Sawyer asked then-House Minority Leader John Boehner what he would do about the need to increase the country's statutory debt limit, considering many of his Tea Party Republicans were elected to office on the pledge not to do it.

"Increasing the debt limit allows our government to meet its obligations," Boehner, R-Ohio, said Nov. 4, 2010. "There are multiple options for how you deal with it."

Over the next eight months, just about every available option was explored.

Along the way, House Republicans began to package ammunition to bargain with at the negotiating table. The House passed a budget, albeit a controversial one called the Path to Prosperity; voted Jan. 18 to repeal the president's healthcare law, and fought to cut discretionary spending.

Democrats and Republicans had competing visions for creating jobs. The GOP called its agenda "The Plan for America's Job Creators" while Democrats rallied around a "Make it in America" jobs plan.

But as was the case all year long, the Senate refused most legislation passed by the House, ending the year with more than two-dozen jobs bills stacked up in the upper chamber "like cordwood," as Rep. Jeb Hensarling , R-Texas, often repeated throughout the year.

The House, meanwhile, refused to vote on President Obama's American Jobs Act, but Republican leaders maintained they would seek common ground from within the president's proposal and pass aspects of it piecemeal.

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