House Dysfunction: 724 Votes, Only 27 Laws Enacted
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the former speaker, had a positive spin on the five days and record-breaking 15 voting rounds it took him to win the gavel in January. “Because it took this long,” he said after the ordeal, “now we learned how to govern.”
But as the first year of the 118th Congress draws to a close, the numbers tell a different story — one that doesn’t involve much governing at all.
In 2023, the Republican-led House has passed only 27 bills that became law, despite holding a total of 724 votes.
That is more voting and less lawmaking than at any other time in the past decade, according to an analysis by the Bipartisan Policy Center, and a far less productive record than that of last year, when Democrats had unified control of Congress. The House held 549 votes in 2022, according to the House clerk, and passed 248 bills that were signed into law, according to records kept by the Library of Congress, including a bipartisan infrastructure law, the Inflation Reduction Act and the first bipartisan gun safety bill in decades.
The list of this year’s accomplishments is less ambitious and more bare minimum, such as legislation to suspend the debt ceiling and set federal spending limits that helped pull the nation back from the brink of economic catastrophe. The tally also includes two temporary spending measures to avoid government shutdowns. The House cleared the must-pass annual military policy bill last week before leaving for the year, although it is not known when President Joe Biden will sign it into law.
The numbers reflect the challenges that have plagued Republicans all year and are likely to continue, and maybe even get worse, in 2024: a tiny majority that requires near unanimity to get anything done; deep party divisions that make unanimity all but impossible; and a right wing whose priority is reining in government, not passing new laws to broaden its reach.
Molly Reynolds, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, said Congress’ productivity issues this year reached a “low point.” She attributed it to deepening political polarization and to the fractured House Republican conference with its too-slim-to-govern majority.
文／Annie Karni 譯／陳曉慈