Current Congress to Be the Least Productive In History, Report Says – Newsweek

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The Republican-controlled Senate has the 116th Congress on track to be the least productive in history.

Only 1 percent of nearly 15,000 bills have been enacted into law between January 3, 2019, and now, a new report from watchdog group Common Cause shows.

“The House of Representatives passed nearly 10 democracy reform bills, often with bipartisan support, this session, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked debate and markups on all of these bills and refused to allow a vote,” Common Cause’s director of legislative affairs, Aaron Scherb, said.

The 2020 Democracy Scorecard, one of the group’s initiatives, provides data on every current member of the House of Representatives and Senate, including their votes and co-sponsorships of democracy reform bills.

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Scherb told Newsweek that McConnell has been instrumental in blocking the current Congress from enacting laws.

“There have been hundreds that have been passed by the House at this point. There have only been 158 enacted laws by this 116th Congress to this point. Yet there are hundreds of bills that have passed the House but continue to sit in Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s desk, or his ‘legislative graveyard’ as it’s been called,” he said.

“Despite that some of these bills have bipartisan support when they pass the House, there’s…opposition to them from the Republican-controlled Senate,” Scherb added.

Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell talks to reporters on September 15. McConnell’s efforts to block House-passed bills from reaching debate on the Senate floor have made the 116th Congress the least productive in history.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty

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McConnell has been known to obstruct bills that have passed the House. In February, the majority leader admitted in an interview with Fox News that 395 bills sitting in the Senate are not going to be passed because of their “left-wing solutions.”

Scherb said hyper-politicization and hyper-partisanship have caused the Republican Party to go “off the deep end” and completely switch its stances on a number of reforms.

“While Democrats are largely supporting these now, it’s not too many years ago that Republicans actually used to be supportive of the Voting Rights Act. They used to be for increased disclosure of campaign spending,” he noted.

He said that while election season makes it much more difficult for members of Congress to come to an agreement on legislation, the number of laws enacted by the current Congress is at a historic low.

“Usually, it’s anywhere from 3 or 4 percent. In terms of actual numbers, this year to date it’s been 158 bills passed into law, whereas the last couple of Congresses—115th Congress [passed] 443 bills, 114th Congress was 329 bills, 113th Congress was 296 bills. All of which were 3 percent of bills,” Scherb said.

Newsweek reached out to McConnell for comment but did not hear back before publication.

The growing divide in Congress makes it increasingly difficult for new laws to reflect a healthy democracy.

“It’s a Senate that’s not reflecting the will of the American people. It’s despite that many reforms that have 60, 70, 80 percent support among the public, whether its anti-gun-violence prevention measures or climate change legislation or voting rights bills to provide additional election funding to ensure every eligible American can vote, the Senate fails to take action on any of these reforms,” he said.

Scherb said that eliminating the upper chamber’s legislative filibuster needs to be looked into and doing so will put pressure on Democratic nominee Joe Biden as Election Day draws closer.

The 2020 Democracy Scorecard also found that more than 50 House members supported critical democracy reforms 100 percent of the time, and 16 senators earned at least 90 percent. Utah Senator Mitt Romney was the highest-scoring Republican in the report.

Common Cause also noted that despite the lack of change, the 116th Congress had the largest and most diverse class of new members and pursued the third impeachment of a president in U.S. history.

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