Study: Current Congress Actually Most Productive in Decades

Posted: Aug 29, 2017 3:50 PM

A recent analysis of Library of Congress data by the Pew Research Center revealed that the 115th Congress is “tied with the 110th (2007-08) for the fifth-highest count of substantive laws among the past 16 Congresses at this point in their respective first sessions.”

Pew analyzed measures passed and signed into law up through August 23rd. They grouped as substantive “any legislation other than renaming buildings, awarding medals, commemorating historic events or taking other purely ceremonial actions.”

The 115th Congress has passed 55 measures with 46 of those qualifying as “substantive” and nine categorized by Pew as “ceremonial.”

Of the 46 laws classified as substantive 14 of them were solely “to overturn various rules adopted by the Obama administration, under the 1996 Congressional Review Act,” which, Pew says, “is by far the heaviest use Congress has ever made of the CRA. Before this year, in fact, only one regulation had ever been undone via the procedure specified in that law. Those 14 ‘resolutions of disapproval’ account for about 30% of the substantive laws, and a quarter of all the laws, enacted so far by this Congress.” 

The last time that the House, Senate and White House all were controlled by the same party was the 111th Congress in 2009-10. That Congress, under Obama, enacted 63 laws by this point of its first session, 39 of which were “substantive.”

“Although the current Congress has passed more bills we count as substantive,” Pew notes, “it has been somewhat light on signature accomplishments so far. Besides funding the federal government for the rest of fiscal 2017 and avoiding a potential shutdown, Congress has enacted a sanctions bill targeting Russia, Iran and North Korea; passed the first comprehensive NASA authorization bill in more than six years; and approved a measure intended to improve weather forecasting.