Kill Bill: How many bills are there? How many are enacted?

So far this year we’ve had 4,288 bills introduced in the Congress. That puts our congressmen and senators on track for a banner year in terms of number of bills introduced, and probably for fewest bills enacted too.

Here’s how the numbers break down so far: 20 bills have been enacted this year so far. 7 bills have come to a vote but failed. (It’s rare that bills fail because party leadership doesn’t bother to call for votes on bills they know they don’t have the votes for.) Another 305 bills have had some sort of substantive action such as coming out of committee or having a vote in one chamber but not yet in the other. The remaining 3,956 are waiting for their moment to shine —- it’s up to the committee chair in the committee they are assigned to to bring the bill up for consideration.

Congress operates in two-year terms. 2011 is the first year of the “112th Congress”. The table below shows the breakdown for the last 13 years.

Congress No Major Action Some Action Failed Enacted
106th (1999-2000) 7460 922 28 558 (6%)
107th (2001-2002) 7750 841 5 350 (4%)
108th (2003-2004) 7045 932 13 476 (6%)
109th (2005-2006) 9141 930 22 465 (4%)
110th (2007-2008) 9218 1382 39 442 (4%)
111th (2009-2010) 9239 998 26 366 (3%)
112th (so far) 3956 305 7 20 (0.5%)

Just keep in mind that the 112th Congress is only 1/4th over, so the comparison to other years is tricky. Since 1999, Congress has been consistently passing about 5% of the bills it introduces, though it’s been introducing substantially more since 2005. The 103rd-108th Congresses (1993-2004) were actually more of a temporary lull. Before that, in the 102nd Congress, Congress introduced 9600 bills. So we’re not really seeing a general upward trend here in number of bills introduced, just a return to what had been fairly normal in years before.

The number above include bills (“H.R.” and “S.” bills) and exclude resolutions because they don’t go through the same life cycle and generally don’t end up being enacted as law.

20 Comments

  1. Seeing how I agree with Dr. Paul from Texas almost 95% of the time, I am basing my trackers on his votes. Pretty sure he has the most commited voting record in history. He is a stand up man and I pray he becomes Prez. I dare any to challenge his voting record and research what the man stands for. RP2012..Maybe our last hope!

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  2. Thank you for this post. It was informative. I was shocked when I heard only 20 bills were passed, but I wasn’t sure how much were passed in the past. The 2008 congress however was productive!!

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  3. A bit too productive. If my calculator skills are correct, that makes 2657 bills – aka legislation – that it has passed in only the years 1999-2010! Pretty soon it’ll be up to speed with California (1000 in 2010).

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  4. Only 558 enacted for ’99-’00 Pamela 🙂
    In what other field than politics could you survive with only 3 – 5 % productivity? None.

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  5. Why the intro of so many bills, I know there is a lot that’s wrong, and this is part of it. If they worked to make things better, cut the number of wastefull bills and went to PART-TIME, that would be better for all.

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  6. What a wake up call. I’d like to see Congress get rid of outdated and ineffective legislation instead of coming up with new legislation that puts a burden on tax payers and businesses.

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  7. Why do some people consider the number or percentage of bills passed as a measure of how “productive” our legislature is? I suppose we should also consider how many pages (and how many hidden pieces of pork) as a measure of productivity as well.

    Government enacting law does not drive the productivity of Americans. Most things are in fact much healthier when the federal government stays out.

    It would be interesting to see how many federal regulations have been passed each year by our massive, unelected bureaucracy. If the numbers I’ve seen are right, we are on an all-time high.

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  8. You can’t really calculate productivity by how many bills becomes laws. It’s all part of a process. It’s way too easy to introduce a bill into Congress. You give it a title, describe a purpose, give it the required first paragraph, then write a sentence or two of just about anything, then put it in a box.

    The parts that takes skill (and sometimes substance… sometimes not) is getting the committee to evaluate it and the House and Senate to take action on it.

    Sometimes a subject may have 12 different bills introduced, but congress will only pass one or two relevant laws. It’s like “get all the ideas out on the table and weed through them”.

    Sometimes a new bill will be introduced that includes a previous bill with additions or deletions. The old bill is dead, but not forgotten.

    Sometimes it’s just political Maneuvering… get something out there with my name on it so it looks like I care. Voters may look at a Reps record, but how often do they check to see if the bills were worthwhile.

    I think we should calculate productivity the degree of responsiveness to voter concerns. If so, 5% would far exceed the grade I give them.

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  9. Yes more bills doesn’t mean more “productive.” However given the number of problems going on in this country 20 bills(many of them ceremonial or funding bills) is something to worry about.

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  10. The federal register, the real measure of big government regulation is the largest in a generation. Laws passed by this congress MUST limit rule making and eliminate laws on the books. Congress has been passing on their responsibility to the administrative branch of the government for too long. It is time they take their responsibility back

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  11. I read recently that there are now 44,000 plus Federal criminal statutes on the books. Chances are you have broken a law or two in your lifetime and don’t know it.The whole Federal legislation system needs overhauling similar to cleaning up the tax code.

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  12. Congress (both parties) does not remember that all Americans are interested in honest government that represents the best interest of the people.

    We need to put aside liberal v conservative. Why should we fight like parents over who gets custody of the children (government)?

    We all want a strong economy, jobs, and a balanced budget.

    Congress stole $2.7 Billion from the Social Security Trust Fund. That money was replaced by worthless IOUs. The government must add this sum to our national debt but has not done so. This is bad accounting.

    Remember we stand together as people and government is accountable to all of us.

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  13. And how many bills did Obama write? submit? vote on? when he was in his very short time in Congress? Hmmmmm! And he got paid and then elected Pres. The idiots are running the asylum (ie: ignorant voters electing an ignorant President.

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  14. Good or bad, the last congress fought hard through 10,629 proposals to pass that 3% of bills. That’s proof that they were not just passing anything (rubber checking it). We (as a people) were told that we better get them out of there because they were out of control. Now we have the new congress. So far, they are only up to passing 0.5% of the bill proposals. At this rate, I do not think we are going to pass 3% of our proposals. I am not sure if we should be celebrating when our whole government representation can’t collectively pass a bill. I myself would rather have “good intention” bills than no bills at all. In other words, stop complaining about what is the best way to put the fire out. Put the fire out first, then complain later.

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  15. “Congress is close to wrapping up one of its least productive sessions in recent memory… ” – That was a comment online in a news article about at the end of the 2011 congressional session.

    Congress may have passed (or enacted) fewwer laws, BUT does that mean they were less productive? Seems like a lot of people confuse the number quanity as being productiove while inoging the quality of the laws enacted.

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