For the last 14 months, the 113th Congress has flirted with history, with fewer bills signed into law (85) than Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) has hairs on the top of his head. They’ve got about 10 months to go, but at this pace they’ll end up with around 150 signed pieces of legislation total—over 3.5 times less than average.*
So what’s the problem? Are representatives and senators just sitting around, fanning themselves with wads of cash from their $174,000 salaries?
No—it turns out that the 113th Congress has introduced nearly 6,200 bills to date, enough to hit 10,540 by the end of the session, which is right around average.
But wait: there’s more. The current Congress has also done a decent job pushing those bills through committee, which is a key test of each bill’s basic viability. It’s one thing to introduce something bold or bizarre just to send a message—it’s quite another to get several dozen colleagues to take your proposal seriously. So far, 9.9% of all introduced bills have passed committee, which is actually a Louie Gohmert hair above the mean (9.4%).
The biggest problem, then, has come on the House and Senate floor, where just about all the momentum has died. To date, only 1.37% of all introduced legislation has been signed into law, a rate roughly twice as bad as the 112th Congress, which was the previous record holder for inefficiency.
So as much as we might wish Congress had better ideas, they should start by passing the ones they’ve already introduced. They’ve got enough to work with—they just need to compromise, vote, and finish what’s been started. It’s time to turn that bald spot into a toupee. If not for the American people, they should do it for Louie.
*all averages based on the last 20 sessions of Congress.