Friday, December 15, 2017
Opinion

Column: The do-less (and less) Congress

If you're even a casual observer of Congress, you're probably already familiar with the following reality: The 113th Congress has done very, very little.

Just how little? The Washington Post's Paul Kane puts it into perspective:

According to congressional records, there have been fewer than 60 public laws enacted in the first 11 months of this year, so below the previous low in legislative output that officials have already declared this first session of the 113th Congress the least productive ever. In 1995, when the newly empowered GOP congressional majority confronted the Clinton administration, 88 laws were enacted, the record low in the post-World War II era.

To be exact, this Congress — which is set to adjourn for the year later this month — has enacted 52 public laws. By comparison, as this chart shows, 90 laws were enacted during the first year of the 113th Congress and 137 were put in place during the first year of the 111th Congress.

A Post editorial points out the consequences:

Neither comprehensive immigration reform, passed by the Senate but stalled in the House, nor a "grand bargain" on fiscal policy made it into law. Indeed, given the deep divisions on the Hill, we may look back on the 16-day government shutdown and the avoided default as major accomplishments of 2013. A conference committee is discussing a budgetary package for fiscal 2014, which will be considered a success if it slightly loosens the so-called sequester's grip on spending priorities while avoiding another partial shutdown in January.

Divided government certainly doesn't make it any easier to put new laws on the books, with the Democratic-controlled White House and Senate frequently at odds with the Republican-controlled House. But consider the 110th Congress. Following a 2006 wave election, Democrats took control of the House and Senate for the final two years of Republican George W. Bush's presidency. Still, they managed to enact 180 public laws during the first session of that Congress and a total of 460 overall.

That number decreased in the 111th Congress — during which time Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House — and again in the 112th Congress, after Republicans took control of the House.

It's a pretty safe bet at this point that at the end of the 113th Congress, we'll once again be writing about how the numbers slipped even further.

© 2013 Washington Post

1997-98 1999-00 2001-02 2003-04 2005-06 2007-08 2009-10 2011-13 2013-14

(113th

Congress)

500

380

260

140

20

Doing less and less

Number of public bills enacted by Congress, going back to the 105th Congress in 1997

1st session

2nd session

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