If you like the status quo in America you are in luck because Congress isn’t changing it. We are now 506 days or 2/3rds into the 113th Congress and 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 so far by this Congress — 104 — is the lowest among the first 506 days of each 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 was 228.
Yet the number of pages of new law is not the lowest. With 2,364 pages of new law so far this Congress, which is low, that actually tops the preceding Congress at 2,269 pages (2011-2012) and the 2,313 pages of law created by the 106th Congress (1999-2000).
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 454 Senate roll call votes so far this Congress isn’t nearly the lowest. Last Congress, at 348 votes, and three previous Congresses had fewer Senate roll call votes (including just 390 votes in the 102nd, 1991-1992). The House’s 881 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||House Votes||Senate Votes||Congress
|Congress & President
|93 (1973-1974)||361||(no data)||695||801||Yes||No|
|94 (1975-1976)||353||(no data)||845||814||Yes||No|
|95 (1977-1978)||323||(no data)||1028||796||Yes||Yes|
|96 (1979-1980)||314||(no data)||935||682||Yes||Yes|
|97 (1981-1982)||206||(no data)||460||651||No||No|
|98 (1983-1984)||307||(no data)||655||477||No||No|
|99 (1985-1986)||324||(no data)||567||487||No||No|
|100 (1987-1988)||337||(no data)||641||579||Yes||No|
|101 (1989-1990)||304||(no data)||505||417||Yes||No|
|102 (1991-1992)||293||(no data)||583||390||Yes||No|