Worst Congress Ever? Maybe Not!

by John Sides on September 27, 2012 · 1 comment

in Legislative Politics,Policy

{ 1 comment }

JC September 27, 2012 at 1:13 pm

I’m not sure length is an adequate measure for importance. The length of a bill represents a number of strategic considerations, and the impact a bill has is not likely to be perfectly correlated with length. We know that bills, in general, are getting longer over time, but does that mean they are getting uniformly more important?

Better measures might include:
1. The proportion of the U.S. Code has been affected by statutes passed during each congress.
2. (For appropriations since they don’t involve the Code) The absolute change in dollar made to discretionary and mandatory spending programs (upward or downward).

I agree the 112th has been more productive than people give it credit for, but I disagree in how this is being presented. Besides, the passage of bills is not the only way to assess the “productivity” of Congress. A lot of the back-room fighting that has gone on over the last 2 years in Congress may lay the groundwork for future legislative accomplishments. Such later accomplishments will reflect work done during this congress.

Additionally, what about oversight? Maybe Congress has passed more bills but engaged in more oversight. Congress can also influence policy by getting executive agencies to change their regulatory codes. Productivity measures should consider these changes, as well.

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