113th Congress avoids 'least productive' tag — but only barely

The 113th Congress narrowly avoided becoming the least productive in more than a decade by completing a rush of work at the last minute, according to the Pew Research Center.

More than one-third of the 113th Congress’s work came during the lame-duck session that lasted just over a month following the November midterm elections. 

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Pew's final calculation, released Monday, found that the 113th Congress passed 38 percent of its laws, and 34 percent of so-called substantive legislation, during that period. In comparison, less than 11 percent of the total legislation passed during the 1999-2000 Congress was confined to the lame-duck session, according to the data.

During the most recent lame-duck, Congress passed the $1.1 trillion "cromnibus" spending bill to avert a government shutdown, pushed ahead a $585 billion defense policy bill and extended a slew of tax breaks, among other activities.

In total, the 113th Congress passed 296 laws: 13 more than the 112th Congress but fewer than each of the six previous legislative bodies, according to Pew.

Pew also found that the share of the total number of  laws deemed "substantive" — legislation excluding ceremonial laws such as renaming buildings — has fallen to 64 percent, its lowest in 14 years.

The recently finished Congress was also historically unpopular, averaging 15 percent approval in 2014, according to Gallup, just 1 point above last year's all-time low set by the same Congress.