Less Than 1% Of Bills Introduced This Congress Have Become Laws: Analysis

There are, to paraphrase the famous “Schoolhouse Rock” animated TV short, a lot of bills and they’re still sittin’ on Capitol Hill.

And unlike the bill in that cartoon, they face tougher odds than ever of actually becoming a law. According to a Washington-based software firm, a meager 0.37% of all the bills introduced in the 118th Congress have made it into law.

The analysis by Quorum, which makes software for lobbying and advocacy groups, said the 46 laws enacted through the end of April, out of 12,354 bills introduced, was the lowest percentage of successful bills going back to at least the 101st Congress, which met in 1990 and 1991.

“You’re welcome, America! The less we do, the better,” said Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), the chairman of the rightwing House Freedom Caucus, when asked about the low numbers.

While the proportion of bills that get enacted is only one metric of how productive a Congress is, and critics say a too simplistic one, the new figure is only the latest evidence of lawmakers’ inability to, well, make laws.

A HuffPost analysis in November, prior to a recent spurt of activity that brought the current number of 118th Congress laws up to 63, found Congress was at its slowest pace of lawmaking since the Congress of 1931 and 1932, which met on a different schedule and didn’t start meeting until December 1931.

And at least one lawmaker has said Congress is on pace to make the fewest laws since the Civil War.

Of course, there are caveats: Some say the number of bills is less important than their content, and many bills now deal with several subjects while in the past they may have dealt only with one apiece. In the case of the Quorum percentage, the number of bills has been padded a bit by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) introducing 599 bills so far, many that would have been amendments to spending bills but were introduced as standalone measures.

Still, the 0.37% success rate for bills so far in the 118th is below the 0.97% in the last Congress at the same time ― and well below the recent peak in the 108th Congress of 2003 and 2004, 3.31%.

Quorum CEO Alex Wirth said the level of political polarization has made it difficult for his customers to get members of Congress to listen. “The lack of engagement from Congress hampers the ability to advocate effectively, gridlocking vital policy initiatives,” he said.

The 108th Congress saw the GOP control both chambers of Congress and White House, easing the path to getting agreement on bills. Like the 118th, Congresses where control of the House, Senate and the White House is split by parties usually pass fewer laws, as the party leaders often decide to just take their disagreements to the voters in the fall of the even-numbered years.

But even this Congress’ pace has been frustrating for some. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) saw a floor speech of his go viral last year when he challenged any of his GOP colleagues to tell him one accomplishment of the House GOP majority.

“One thing. I want my Republican colleagues to give me one thing — one! — that I can go campaign on and say we did,” he shouted.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) called it the least effective Congress in his 22 terms, but not because of the tortoise-like legislative pace.

“I’m not judging by the number of laws that have been passed. I’m judging by the chaos and lack of unity that they have been able to create in their own party,” he said. “That’s what people will make a judgment on.”

Good said he didn’t mind the low numbers. Higher ones, he said, would mean he was finding common ground with Democrats.

“They want to destroy the country. Obviously, I’m not trying to help them do it. They won’t agree to anything that will actually help the country,” he said.

There has been a pickup in laws enacted in recent weeks, but that also shows the issues with judging purely by the number of laws. Out of the last dozen bills Congress has passed, seven were to rename post offices or veterans’ facilities for local figures.

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) said the GOP House had sent over many good bills to the Democratic Senate only to see them die there. “I think it’s on them as well,” he said.

As for the spike in renamings, Burchett joked, “Those post offices will not name themselves.”