Congress’s official count of new laws, in the Resume of Congressional Activity, got it wrong for the 2013 legislative session. If Congress can’t count its own laws, they have some nerve to withhold the data from the public, preventing us from counting them ourselves.
The Resume for the 2013 session says there were 65 new laws enacted between January 3, 2013 and January 3, 2014 (House link, Senate Link; accessed Feb. 7, 2014). That’s wrong. There were 72 according to the Office of the Federal Register (OFR), which assigns slip law numbers (e.g. “Public Law 113-###”) to enacted laws.
What’s the deal? While the 72nd law was signed on Dec. 26, 2013, OFR didn’t publish the slip law numbers for the last seven until January 9. The Resume was published on January 6, and on that date OFR reported 65 laws even though 72 had been signed. Had Congress looked at Congress.gov on that date (we did), they would have seen that seven more bills had already been signed by the President. (Those laws had not yet been assigned a slip law number, but as far as we know that has no bearing on whether something is a law.)
We noticed this because we flubbed our initial blog post on the number of new laws in 2013, and we corrected our count on January 9. It’s February 7 and Congress’s count is still wrong.
Congress has tons of data on its legislation, but they don’t let anyone see it. (See my post Where’s the data, Boehner?) The Library of Congress has warned Congress about the costs and risks of allowing websites like GovTrack to have more information, but I think we should be concerned about the risks of only Congress having this information if they can’t even count 72 laws correctly.
The Resume of Congressional Activity is published at the end of each yearly legislative session in the Congressional Record. We’re not sure which legislative branch agency is responsible for doing the count.