It wasn’t the least productive Congress after all

UPDATE: 12/25/2014: Because of a discrepancy in bill status as published by Congress, I over-counted by 1. There were 296 new laws in the 113th Congress, not 297.  S. 2244 was published by Congress as having passed the House and Senate. Congress failed to indicate that the House passed S. 2244 in non-identical form as the Senate, which at the 11th hour sent it back to the Senate for another vote — not to the President, as I thought. That vote didn’t occur, so the bill did not become law. I apologize for the error.

UPDATE: 12/19/2014: The table of numbers at the bottom of the post has been corrected. This affected the position of the 113th Congress in terms of number of words of new law enacted. I had said it was the 4th least wordy out of 11 Congresses, but it was the 5th — so, actually, right about in the middle in terms of wordiness.

Original post follows:

We were wrong. This Congress won’t have enacted the fewest new laws in modern history. At 297 new laws plus bills now awaiting the President’s signature, that beats last Congress’s count of 284. It’s not the fewest, but that is the second fewest since 1947, which is as far back as we looked.

Congress caught up fast. In the first 23 months of the 113th Congress (2013-2014), Congress had sent just 201 bills to the President. Then in the first 16 days of December Congress passed another 96 bills. The President has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to sign the remaining 94 bills presented to him but not yet signed. So we’ll have a final count by the end of December.

(list of 203 enacted laws; list of 94 bills at the President’s desk)

Keep in mind that it takes a law to repeal a law. At least one of those 297 projected new laws did repeal an existing lawH.R. 5050: May 31, 1918 Act Repeal Act repealed a law that took land from the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation in 1918 (as best as I can tell).

But at 4,264,363 words of new law (6,459 pages), this Congress is the fourth least wordy right in the middle of the 10 preceding Congresses, being more wordy than the 104th, 106th, 107th, and 112th Congresses.

Many, including us, projected that this Congress, the 113th Congress, would enact the fewest bills in modern history. At 72 new laws enacted in 2013, the first session of the 113th Congress, it was the lowest count in any first year of a Congress at least since World War II, which is as far back as we checked. That trend continued right until two weeks ago. We had been following’s Congress’s productivity closely the last two years (in July 2014, in December 2013in May 2014, and in July 2014).

Here are the numbers. I’ve also counted up the number of House and Senate votes by Congress. (See below for notes.)

Congress Laws Pages Words House Votes Senate Votes
103 (1993-1993) 473 7695 5095897 1122 724
104 (1995-1995) 337 7017 3977333 1340 919
105 (1997-1997) 404 6656 4727171 1187 612
106 (1999-1999) 604 5127 3364794 1214 672
107 (2001-2001) 383 5628 3771658 996 633
108 (2003-2003) 504 7089 4804109 1221 675
109 (2005-2005) 483 7327 5687617 1214 645
110 (2007-2008) 460 7394 4992177 1876 657
111 (2009-2009) 385 8015 6071465 1655 696
112 (2011-2012) 284 4425 3402712 1606 486
113 (2013-2014) 297* 6459* 4264363* 1204* 657*

* Includes enrolled bills (expected to be signed by the President) and assumes no other bills will be passed by Congress before Congress adjourns on Jan 2, and assumes no further votes.

The two vote count columns are the total number of roll call votes in each chamber. Note that there are other sorts of votes besides roll call votes (unanimous consent, without objection, and so on), and they are on a range of questions besides the final passage of bills.

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