Did my representative enact enough bills?

One common way legislator performance is measured is by how many laws a representative or senator got enacted. Like all quantitative measures, a count of bills enacted addresses only a small part of what makes an effective legislator. But here’s a starting point:

A congressman/women on average enacts….
* for Republicans, 1 bill for every 2.7 years of service
* for Democrats, 1 bill for every 3.4 years of service

I don’t know whether 2.7/3.4 are good or bad (see the notes for why there may be a difference), but it can tell us which congresspeople are ahead of the pack and which are lagging. As I always say, it takes a law to repeal a law so no matter whether you want bigger government or smaller government you want Congress to be passing laws.

Here are the top 5 lagging representatives:

Bills Enacted Years of Service Expected Difference Representative
1 21 6 -5 Rep. Xavier Becerra [D-CA34]
0 17 5 -5 Rep. Mike McIntyre [D-NC7]
4 25 9 -5 Rep. Dana Rohrabacher [R-CA48]
4 30 9 -5 Rep. Marcy Kaptur [D-OH9]
2 17 6 -4 Rep. Pete Sessions [R-TX32]

“Expected” is the Years of Service ÷ 2.7 (for Republicans) or 3.4 (for Democrats).

Here are the top 5 representatives ahead of the pack:

Bills Enacted Years of Service Expected Difference Representative
34 23 7 +27 Del. Eleanor Norton [D-DC0]
31 26 10 +21 Rep. Lamar Smith [R-TX21]
15 7 2 +13 Rep. Richard Nolan [D-MN8]
19 21 8 +11 Rep. John Mica [R-FL7]
15 15 6 +9 Rep. Greg Walden [R-OR2]

Some notes:

  • These statistics are based on the 424 Members of Congress who have been serving up to 30 years. The 14 Members who have served longer than 30 years throw off the statistics — they got a lot more bills enacted — and so are not comparable the same way.
  • We’re counting as enacted the bills and joint resolutions which were themselves enacted or if they had an identical “companion” bill in the other chamber which was enacted.
  • Although Republicans seem to be enacting laws faster than Democrats by these numbers (1 bill every 2.7 years for Republicans and every 3.4 years for Democrats), this doesn’t say that Republicans are more effective legislators. The difference likely results from the Republicans controlling both the House and the Presidency for more time than the Democrats controlled both the House and the Presidency (in the last 30 years).
  • Enacting laws isn’t the only thing that makes an effective legislator. Many representatives have other roles in Congress, such as being a party leader (including the Speaker of the House) or a member of a committee that is primarily not legislative (e.g. the House Rules Committee).
  • The statistical model is a simple linear regression where the predictors were years in service and years in service crossed with party. (There was no intercept term.) The cross term for party was statistically significant at p < 0.005. The R^2 was about 0.64.