How Can A Congress That Passed 219 Bills Be Called “Unproductive”?


According to the Huffington Post, the 112th Congress is set to steal the “ignominious distinction” of being the least productive Congress since the 104th Congress (1995 – 1995):

WASHINGTON — As 2012 comes to a close, the 112th Congress is set to go down in American history as the most unproductive session since the 1940s.

According to a Huffington Post review of all the bills that hit President Barack Obama’s desk this session, Obama has signed 219 bills passed by the 112th Congress into law. With less than a week to go in the year, there are currently another 20 bills pending presidential action. In comparison, the last Congress passed 383 bills, while the one before it passed 460.

The 104th Congress (1995-1996) currently holds the ignominious distinction of being the least productive session of Congress, according to the U.S. House Clerk’s Office, which has records going back to 1947. Just 333 bills became law during that two-year period, meaning the 112th Congress needs to send nearly 100 more bills to Obama’s desk in the next few days if it wants to avoid going down in history — an unlikely prospect, considering that both chambers are squarely focused on averting the “fiscal cliff” before the new year.

Just to put this into perspective, 1 out of every 3 days of this Congress saw a new bill being passed. That hardly seems “unproductive,” but we shouldn’t be buying into the idea that indiscriminate lawmaking is somehow a virtue.

It seems a little childish to use legislative volume as a measure of legislative accomplishment. But clearly our friends on the big-government left feel differently.

It’s a little scary to think about, but over the centuries of this nation’s existence each Congress has left us with more laws on the books than the previous Congress. Even a supposedly “unproductive” Congress such as the current one will have put hundreds of new laws and regulations on the books for Americans to live by.

I don’t think a measure of the number of bills passed by a given Congress is a very good measure of accomplishment. After all, a bill passed can get rid of laws (or lower taxes, cut spending, etc.) just as easily as it can create new laws to live by. But generally speaking, the more Congress does the less free we are.

Rob Port

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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