Unproductive Congress: How it Compares to the Great Depression Era

Amid this Congressional session with only 21 bills turned into law by November, the 118th Congress, currently under Republican House control and Democrat Senate control, matches the slowest pace of law-making tied to the Congress in history between 1931 and 1932, during the time of the Great Depression, and a presidency of Hoover.

Republican representative Chip Roy of Texas’s public frustration ignited when previously important spending bills are stalled from reaching the Senate. Such a lack of productivity in this Congress placed its first half with minimum accomplishments in history, with notable occurrences such as the first ouster of the House speaker mid-session, a subsequent three-week long search for a new speaker, and a threatening conflict between a senator and a committee witness.

Recent polls and data from Gallup show a mere 13% approval rating for the Congress. The late push for laws this year marks the slowest arrival at 21 laws since the 72nd Congress. The previous Congresses’ lame duck sessions, spanning from December of the election year to March of the new year before the 20th Amendment, have achieved more in the past.

In turn, Congress created 21 laws, one of which only kept the government open, and two naming local Veterans Affairs clinics. Comparatively, the previous Congresses’ average of 355 laws each makes the 118th Congress’ total of 21 laws seem insufficient. This year, Congress voted on renaming fewer post offices than before. The House had difficulties passing more bills at the beginning of the year and encountered challenges related to terms such as speaker.

Still, former House Speaker John Boehner argued that the public opinion shows Congress passes too many bills, advocating against the premise of more bills’ need. Repealing laws requires the addition of a law, however.


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