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
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.
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.
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.
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|
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.
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.
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.
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.
|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 %|
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.
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|
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.
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.
|Congress||Fiscal Year||President Submits Budget to Congress by First Monday in February||Congress Adopts Final Budget Resolution By April 15th|
| 104th Congress|
|1997||43 Days Late||13-Jun|
| 110th Congress|
| 111th Congress|
| 112th Congress|
|2012||7 Days Late||Not Adopted|
|2013||7 Days Late||Not Adopted|
| 113th Congress|
|2014||65 Days Late||Not Adopted|
|2015||30 Days Late||Not Adopted|
| 114th Congress|
|2017||9 Days Late||Not Adopted|
| 115th Congress|
|2018||107 Days Late*||26-Oct|
|2019||7 Days Late||Not Adopted|
| 116th Congress|
|2020||35 Days Late||Not Adopted|
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.
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.
|Number of Programs||103||121||250||259||270||260||256||257|
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.
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.