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Healthy Congress Index

The Brief

The index represents a new, long-term effort to bring accountability to Congress and answer the question: how is Congress governing? The period covered by this installment is January 3, 2019 through June 30, 2019 and the numbers presented here are cumulative.

Healthy Congress Index Field
House Schedule
Senate Schedule
House Schedule
104th 79
110th 87
111th 80
112th 68
113th 69
114th 70
115th 75
116th 78
Senate Schedule
104th 106
110th 100
111th 94
112th 73
113th 71
114th 87
115th 84
116th 83

Data Focus

This measure shows how often Congress is in Washington conducting legislative business. The Commission on Political Reform recommended that Congress adopt a five-day workweek with three weeks spent in Washington and one week spent in district or state work periods each month.

Data Findings

Neither chamber met the standard of a five-day workweek in Washington during the first six months of 2019. By BPC’s standard, each chamber should work at least 90 days in that period. The House was at work in the Capitol for 78 days, which is on par with the previous Congress, but an improvement over other recent Congresses. The Senate worked 83 days in Washington, which is on par with the previous two Congresses, but an improvement over the two before that.

House Senate
104th 99 94
110th 141 148
111th 104 36
112th 66 42
113th 98 69
114th 145 102
115th 137 139
116th 95 74

Data Focus

This measure shows whether bills are developed through the traditional committee process, which allows for more input from rank-and-file members, rather than a process primarily controlled by party leaders.

Data Findings

Committees in the House reported just 95 bills in the first two quarters of the 116th Congress, which is below all of its recent predecessors except the 112th Congress. Like the 116th Congress, the 112th was one where party control of the chamber had also recently switched. In the Senate, committees reported 74 bills, which is well below its two most recent predecessors, but an improvement over the 111th-113th Congresses.

Votes to Invoke Votes Failed
104th 3 8
110th 20 19
111th 18 1
112th 5 3
113th 10 4
114th 14 19
115th 2 0
116th 9 13

Data Focus

Cloture is a vote to end debate on a measure or amendment. Ending debate prevents members from filibustering and possibly holding up a measure indefinitely.

Data Findings

Attempts to filibuster legislation ticked up compared to this period during the last Congress. The Senate took 22 cloture votes on legislation between January and the end of June. In that period last Congress, the Senate took just 2 such cloture votes.

Among the 22 votes in the current Congress, cloture was invoked in only 9 instances and failed in 13, meaning that in most instances, attempts to filibuster were successful in blocking measures from further consideration.

Majority Minority
104th 176 155
110th 196 183
111th 124 159
112th 51 35
113th 97 121
114th 168 144
115th 16 2
116th 21 6

Data Focus

When bills are considered on the floor, members of both parties should have the opportunity to offer amendments. This is especially important for the minority party, which sometimes resorts to procedural tactics to stall bills when cut out of the amendment process.

Data Findings

The Senate considered the second fewest amendments—27—of any first six-month period in the index. The only Congress with fewer amendments was the 115th. In some recent Congresses, the Senate considered more than ten times as many amendments in that time.

The distribution of amendments overwhelmingly favored the majority party, which is out of step with recent norms. In the past, amendments tended to have been split about evenly between majority and minority. Since January 2019, however, 78 percent of amendments considered were sponsored by the majority Republicans and just 22 percent came from the minority Democrats.

Open Structured Closed
104th 68 % 27 % 5 %
110th 23.3 % 38.3 % 38.3 %
111th 0 % 72 % 28 %
112th 23 % 37 % 40 %
113th 14 % 55 % 31 %
114th 11 % 40 % 49 %
115th 0 % 43 % 57 %
116th 0 % 49 % 51 %
 104th110th111th112th113th114th115th116th
Open30140104600
Structured1223261616212819
Closed22310179263720

Data Focus

The amendment process in the House is typically governed by predetermined rules specific to each bill: open rules allows all members to offer amendments on the floor; closed rules allows none; structured rules allows only those specified by the Rules Committee.

Data Findings

The amendment process in the House was mostly restricted in the first two quarters of 2019. Members of the House were unable to offer amendments to more than half of the bills that came to the floor. Fifty-one percent of rules were closed, meaning no amendments could be offered. Zero rules were open. Forty-nine percent of rules were structured, meaning only amendments preapproved by the majority-controlled Rules Committee could be offered.

7 104th 2 110th 4 111th 0 112th 0 113th 1 114th 0 115th 1 116th

Data Focus

Conference committees are essential to resolving differences between legislation passed by the two chambers. Important legislation should have the benefit of a conference committee to ensure greater member participation in the policy process.

Data Findings

So far, only one conference report has been approved by both chambers in the 116th Congress. This is mostly in line with how often they have been used since the 112th Congress.

CongressFiscal YearPresident Submits Budget to Congress by First Monday in FebruaryCongress Adopts Final Budget Resolution By April 15th
104th Congress
(Clinton)
1996Yes29-Jun
199743 Days Late13-Jun
110th Congress
(Bush)
2008Yes17-May
2009Yes5-Jun
111th Congress
(Obama)
201094 Days
Late*
29-Apr
2011YesNot Adopted
112th Congress
(Obama)
20127 Days LateNot Adopted
20137 Days LateNot Adopted
113th Congress
(Obama)
201465 Days LateNot Adopted
201530 Days LateNot Adopted
114th Congress
(Obama)
2016Yes5-May
20179 Days LateNot Adopted
115th Congress
(Trump)
2017-13-Jan**
2018107 Days Late*26-Oct
20197 Days LateNot Adopted
116th Congress
(Trump)
2019--Not Adopted
202035 Days LateNot Adopted
  • Budget Process
  • Chamber Action on Appropriations
  • Final Action on Appropriations
  • Final Action on Appropriations (cont’d)

Data Focus

Congress and the president must take actions before certain deadlines to ensure the government is funded before the start of the next fiscal year on October 1. When these deadlines are not met, Congress often takes stopgap measures outside of the regular process.

Data Findings

Progress on funding the government for the upcoming FY2020 has been mixed compared with the previous Congress’s progress on FY2019. The Trump administration’s budget proposal was sent to Congress 35 days past the statutory deadline and Congress still had not adopted a formal budget resolution by the end of the June.

The House was slightly ahead of the last Congress in moving appropriations bills through committee and to floor votes, while the Senate was behind and had not made any committee or floor progress. Both chambers have until October 1, 2019 to fund the government for FY2020.

1995 17.2 %
1997 16.8 %
2010 21.6 %
2012 20.3 %
2014 25.6 %
2015 25.1 %
2016 26.2 %
2019 23 %
 19951997201020122014201520162019
Funds Appropriated$93.9B$89.4B$290.8B$261.1B$301.5B$293.5B$310.3B$306.7B
Number of Programs103121250259270260256257

Data Focus

Authorizing committees in Congress should routinely review government programs and renew, adjust, or eliminate their authorizations for funding. To measure how diligently committees are conducting this oversight, the index identifies programs receiving appropriations for which the underlying authorization has expired. This measure is likely only to be updated on an annual basis.

Data Findings

Congress has been neglecting its duty to review existing federal programs and, when necessary, make adjustments. The number of federal programs that have not been reviewed and reauthorized by congressional committees has grown since fiscal year 1995. At that time, these programs made up about 17 percent of spending. From FY 2014 through FY 2019, funding for programs with expired authorizations made up about one-quarter or more of all discretionary spending.

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