Pew Study: 113th Congress is One of the 'Least Productive' in History

Cortney O'Brien

9/4/2013 1:30:00 PM - Cortney O'Brien

Well, with Sen. John McCain tending to important business like playing poker on his iPhone during Senate hearings on Syria, what do you expect?

Seven-in-ten Americans have a “very” or “mostly” unfavorable opinion of Congress, an unfortunate figure which can be explained by the notion that it’s not really accomplishing much, according to the Pew Research Center. What’s more, in a Fox News poll last month, only 14 percent of those surveyed said Congress has been working hard enough to deserve a summer vacation.

It turns out this claim isn’t too far from reality -- a fact reflected in the chart below.

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Notice a trend? In order to better measure the lack of productivity in the 113th Congress, Pew decided to measure not just how many laws have passed, but how many substantive ones have been enacted since the 106th Congress.

From Pew:

So far, this year appears to be on track to be one of the least productive. Of the 31 measures that have become law so far this Congress, 24 count as substantive by our admittedly generous definition. That’s five more than the 112th Congress managed to get through by Labor Day 2011, and three more than the 107th Congress mustered at the equivalent point in its term.

However, the 113th is well off the pace set as recently as 2007, when 45 substantive bills had become law by the end of August; even in 2009, when Congress was riven by disputes over health-care reform, financial regulation and economic stimulus, 38 substantive laws had been enacted by summer’s end.

Pew notes the declining amount of substantive legislation since 1999 is parallel to the increase in congressional polarization. In other words, the inability to compromise has severely halted progress on Capitol Hill. But, judging from our representatives’ recent actions, a Full House is apparently more important in a game of cards than on the floor of Congress.