Following on our posts, see this from political scientists Scott Alder and John Wilkerson. They note that, once you take into account the importance of the bills passed (proxied here with their length), the 112th Congress doesn’t look all that bad:
Moreover, this Congress may conclude with a flurry of activity:
Compared to unified governments, divided governments tend to be less productive in their first sessions and accelerate their productivity in their second sessions. Furthermore, the productivity gap narrows most dramatically in the final three or four months of a congressional term.
Adler and Wilkerson’s new book is Congress and the Politics of Problem-Solving, which is summarized here and which you can buy here. It amounts to a revisionist take on legislative politics right now. To wit:
The resulting insights are innovative and substantial: incumbents of both parties have electoral incentives to be concerned about Congress’s collective performance; the legislative issue agenda can often be predicted years in advance; nearly all important successful legislation originates in committee; many laws pass with bipartisan support; and electoral replacement, partisan or otherwise, is not the most robust predictor of when policy changes are enacted.
Expect more from their blog in the coming weeks and months.