GOP Congress ranks low in productivity: analysis

GOP Congress ranks low in productivity: analysis
© Getty Images

Congressional productivity during the GOP’s first two years controlling both the House and Senate falls behind historical averages, according to a new analysis.

Lawmakers sent more bills to President Obama during the 114th Congress than in the past four years, when the GOP only controlled the House, according to an analysis by Quorum, a D.C.-based data-tracking firm.

At the same time, Quorum found that the Senate passed the lowest percentage of House bills in the past quarter-century despite unified party control of Congress.

Across the Capitol, the House’s record of passing legislation this session — 773 total bills — was above the historical average of 626 measures.

But that’s still less than the all-time record of 943 bills passed by the House during the first two years of Obama’s presidency, when Democrats controlled Congress.

ADVERTISEMENT
Obama has yet to take action on 13 bills, but that doesn’t change the conclusion that the 114th Congress enacted more laws than the past two sessions of Congress.

Most major legislation in this session passed in 2015, before the tumultuous campaign season began in full force.

GOP leaders shepherded bipartisan compromise legislation that included reforming the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education law, granting the Obama administration more flexibility in negotiating trade deals and providing five years’ worth of funding for transportation projects. Reauthorizing NCLB and passing long-term transportation funding were accomplishments that had eluded lawmakers for years.

Then came 2016.

Lawmakers spent much of the year away from Capitol Hill to campaign for reelection back home.

Capitol Hill particularly resembled a ghost town during the last quarter of 2016. Both chambers were out session for seven weeks in July and August to accommodate the party nominating conventions and then left town again for the entire month of October for the final weeks of the campaign.

After the election, Republicans opted for a short-term spending bill so they could avoid negotiating again with the outgoing president. Congress was consequently only in session for a total of three weeks after Election Day, allowing lawmakers to go home for the holidays by early December.

With roughly 550 House bills ending 2016 stuck in Senate limbo, lawmakers will need reintroduce their legislation next year and have it clear the lower chamber for a second time.

The end-of-the-year total is an uptick from the nearly 400 House bills that were stuck in the Senate as of the end of May, according to Congress's Legislative Information System (LIS), which tracks the status of legislation. The LIS total doesn’t include resolutions only taken up by the lower chamber, or concurrent resolutions, which aren’t sent to President Obama’s desk

The slow path for House bills has drawn frustration from lawmakers, who repeatedly urged Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight Hillicon Valley: Trump's Russia moves demoralize his team | Congress drops effort to block ZTE deal | Rosenstein warns of foreign influence threat | AT&T's latest 5G plans On The Money: Trump 'ready' for tariffs on all 0B in Chinese goods | Trump digs in on Fed criticism | Lawmakers drop plans to challenge Trump ZTE deal MORE (R-Ky.) to get rid of procedural hurdles that can kill legislation even if it has the support from every Senate Republican.

Republicans needed at least six Democratic votes to overcome an initial 60-vote procedural hurdle to take up a piece of legislation during the 114th Congress. In 2017, they'll need at least eight Democrats, as the GOP Senate majority shrinks from 54 seats to 52 seats.

The backlog of House bills isn't anything new.

House Republicans, and some Senate lawmakers, repeatedly criticized then-Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSenate GOP breaks record on confirming Trump picks for key court Don’t worry (too much) about Kavanaugh changing the Supreme Court Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (D-Nev.) when Democrats controlled the Senate, launching a #StuckintheSenate hashtag on Twitter.

Amid the backlash against the upper chamber, The Washington Post broke down the number of House bills that have been stuck in the Senate for every Congress since 1975.

Eleven of the 19 sessions between the 94th Congress and the 113th Congress had more than 300 House bills awaiting action by the end of the session, according to the Post and GovTrack.

The 112th Congress holds the title of the least productive Congress, based on the number of bills passed. That was the session when Republicans had first taken over the House after the 2010 elections but repeatedly locked horns with the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Obama. Only 272 pieces of legislation made it to President Obama’s desk during those two years.

The following session, which ran from 2013 to 2014, is the second least productive Congress, with 282 bills passed. The 113th Congress most memorably featured the first government shutdown in 17 years when Democrats refused to accept House Republicans’ demands to defund the Affordable Care Act.