Our dysfunctional Congress

It is generally widely accepted that recent Congresses have more contentious and less productive than in the past. What does dysfunction look like from the perspective of patterns of bill activity?

The visualization below contrasts the last Congress (112th, 2011-12) to a Congress from two decades ago (102nd, 1991-92) when George H.W. Bush was President and Congress was controlled by Democrats. There are many possible explanations for why more recent Congresses might be less productive. One of the patterns that emerges from the visualization is that an important bottleneck happens late in the process.

In the 102nd, there is a fairly steady stream of bills moving from the House and Senate floors to the President’s desk and into law. In the 112th, the pattern is more like a dripping faucet. Of the bills that passed the House and Senate, 22.6% became law compared to just 14.5% for the 112th. Overall, the 102nd Congress passed 2.5 times more bills than the 112th.


Next: Why do legislators sponsor bills?

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.