(This is an updated version of this post from May.)
If you like the status quo in America you are in luck because Congress isn’t changing it. Now 3/4ths into the 113th Congress, the trend of gridlock continues — but not all of the numbers are gloomy.
It takes a law to repeal a law, so no matter whether you think Congress should be creating more rules or less you probably want some bills to be enacted. The number of bills enacted by this Congress as of June 30 — 125 — is the lowest among the first 544 days of any Congress since 1973 (the earliest we have data). In the five Congresses before this one where the chambers weren’t controlled by the same party, the average number of bills enacted in the same time period was 254.
Yet the number of pages of new law is not the lowest. With 2,597 pages of new law in the first 3/4ths of this Congress, which is low, that actually tops the preceding Congress at 2,324 pages (2011-2012) and the 2,465 pages of law created in the 106th Congress (1999-2000) (both the first 544 days).
And while The Washington Post reported that the Senate has been on a trend of holding fewer votes per day in session since 1990, the 507 Senate roll call votes so far this Congress isn’t nearly the lowest. Last Congress, at 407 votes, and three previous Congresses had fewer Senate roll call votes (including just 412 votes in the 102nd, 1991-1992). The House’s 1,008 roll call votes this Congress is about on par for the House. Many of those votes were for show though — votes on bills that House leadership knew very well wouldn’t be passed by the Senate.
We previously reported on gridlock: With 72 new laws enacted in 2013, the first year of the 113th Congress, it was the lowest count in any first year of a Congress at least since 1973. We looked at the trend earlier, in the middle of 2013, and at 21 new laws at the time it was also the lowest for that point during a Congressional term.
Congressional “productivity” is not something that really can be measured, and the fact that not all of the numbers here agree on whether this Congress is the least productive shows that it’s a complex thing to consider.
Here’s the data in a table:
Congressional Activity in the First 506 Days of Each Congress
|Congress||New Laws||Pages of New Law||Words in New Law||House Votes||Senate Votes||Congress
|Congress & President
|93 (1973-1973)||406||(no data)||(no data)||785||864||Yes||No|
|94 (1975-1975)||401||(no data)||(no data)||986||982||Yes||No|
|95 (1977-1977)||355||(no data)||(no data)||1,154||832||Yes||Yes|
|96 (1979-1979)||366||(no data)||(no data)||1,033||810||Yes||Yes|
|97 (1981-1981)||237||(no data)||(no data)||519||701||No||No|
|98 (1983-1983)||344||(no data)||(no data)||774||557||No||No|
|99 (1985-1985)||351||(no data)||(no data)||628||535||No||No|
|100 (1987-1987)||376||(no data)||(no data)||698||640||Yes||No|
|101 (1989-1989)||320||(no data)||(no data)||578||455||Yes||No|
|102 (1991-1991)||312||(no data)||(no data)||686||412||Yes||No|