The ‘do-nothing’ Congress isn’t even good at doing nothing anymore


House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), joined by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), incoming Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

In a last-minute twist, the House looked as though it might adjourn Thursday for August recess without passing a bill to address the crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. Quelle surprise.

The fact that this Congress isn't getting much done is no secret. And as the great Philip Bump wrote a few weeks back, it's on pace to become the do-nothing-est of all the recent "do-nothing" Congresses.

But no visualization puts that in such stark relief as the chart below, from the Pew Research Center, which tracks how many laws were enacted by each of the last 10 Congresses in their first 19 months — i.e., where we are today.

CongressProductivity_July2014

The first thing you'll notice is that the 113th Congress has passed only 108 "substantive" bills. That's the lowest that number has been in the [ast two decades (and probably for much longer than that, if not in history).

But look at the left side of the chart. These are the bills that Pew labels "ceremonial" — a.k.a. naming post offices, commemorations, anniversaries, etc. And that number is the lowest since the late 1990s.

In other words, Congress is so intransigent that it isn't even naming post offices at the rate it used to.

Then again, that's probably what some folks would call progress.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

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