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BPC recommends 45 working days per quarter

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: By BPC’s standard, each chamber should have worked at least 255 days between January 2017 and the end of June 2018.

In that period, the House was at work in the Capitol for just 210 days, which is about the same as in recent years and well below the number of days it would have worked if it adhered to BPC’s recommended schedule. Since January 2017, the Senate worked 236 days in Washington, a slight improvement over the number of days in the 112th-114th congresses, but still well below BPC’s recommendation and the number of days worked in the 104th and 110th.

House
Senate

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 and Senate have been very active in reporting bills. House committees reported 643 bills in the 115th Congress, the highest among any years in the index. Senate committees reported 401 bills, the third-highest among the index’s comparative years, and much higher than the lull seen during the 111th through 113th congresses.

Votes to Invoke
Votes Failed

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 are at the lowest level of the last decade. The current Senate has taken just 33 cloture votes compared with 104 in the 114th Congress, 55 in the 113th, 46 in the 112th, 54 in the 111th, and 95 in the 110th. In the 104th Congress, the Senate took 46 votes on cloture. Among the 33 votes in this Congress, cloture was invoked in 23 instances and failed in 10, suggesting that in most instances, attempts to filibuster were not successful in blocking measures from further consideration.

Majority
Minority

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 has considered the lowest number of amendments—258 between January 2017 and the end of June 2018—of any of the years tracked in the index. The distribution of amendments between the majority and minority has been out of step with recent norms as well. In the past, amendments tended to have been split evenly between majority and minority, or perhaps a 60-40 split in favor of the majority. Since January 2017, however, 68 percent of amendments considered were sponsored by the majority Republicans and just 32 percent came from the minority Democrats.

Open
Structured
Closed
104th110th111th112th113th114th115th
Open75220251180
Structured32726957576772
Closed18512741555487

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: Members of the House were unable to offer amendments to most of the bills that came to the floor this Congress. Since January 2017, 55 percent of rules were closed, meaning no amendments could be offered. This percentage of closed rules marks the highest level in the index.

However, 45 percent of rules were structured, meaning amendments pre-approved by the majority-controlled Rules Committee could be offered. When structured rules were in place, 47 percent of amendments were offered by Democrats, the minority, 39 percent were offered by Republicans, the majority, and 14 percent were offered on a bipartisan basis.

Zero rules were open. Only one other Congress in the index, the 111th, had zero open rules at this point during the two-year period. Members had more opportunities to offer amendments during the 111th Congress, however, with structured rules in effect 72 percent of the time.

Conference Committees

36

104th

12

110th

12

111th

6

112th

2

113th

5

114th

1

115th

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: Since January 2017, only one conference report has been approved by both chambers, the lowest among the years in the index. This suggests conference committees are not being used to their full potential compared with previous congresses.

Budget Process
Chamber Action on Appropriations
Appropriations/Funding Process
Final Action on Appropriations

 

Congress
Fiscal Year
President Submits Budget to Congress by First Monday in February
Congress Adopts Final Budget Resolution By April 15th
104th Congress
(Clinton)
1996
Yes
29-Jun
1997
43 Days Late
13-Jun
110th Congress
(Bush)
2008
Yes
17-May
2009
Yes
5-Jun
111th Congress
(Obama)
2010
94 Days Late*
29-Apr
2011
Yes
Not Adopted
112th Congress
(Obama)
2012
7 Days Late
Not Adopted
2013
7 Days Late
Not Adopted
113th Congress
(Obama)
2014
65 Days Late
Not Adopted
2015
30 Days Late
Not Adopted
114th Congress
(Obama)
2016
Yes
5-May
2017
9 Days Late
Not Adopted
115th Congress
(Trump)
2017
-
13-Jan**
2018
107 Days Late*
26-Oct
2019
7 Days Late
Not Yet Adopted
Congress
Fiscal Year
House Committee Action on Regular Appropriations by June 30
House Floor Action on Regular Appropriations by June 30
Senate Committee Action on Regular Appropriations by June 30
Senate Floor Action on Regular Appropriations by June 30
104th Congress
(Clinton)
1996
6/13
2/13
0/13
0/13
1997
7/13
7/13
3/13
1/13
110th Congress
(Bush)
2008
7/12
5/12
8/12
8/12
2009
5/12
0/12
3/12
0/12
111th Congress
(Obama)
2010
7/12
4/12
4/12
0/12
2011
0/12
0/12
0/12
0/12
112th Congress
(Obama)
2012
6/12
3/12
1/12
0/12
2013
11/12
6/12
9/12
0/12
113th Congress
(Obama)
2014
6/12
2/12
4/12
0/12
2015
10/12
5/12
7/12
0/12
114th Congress
(Obama)
2016
9/12
6/12
9/12
0/12
2017
10/12
5/12
12/12
4/12
115th Congress
(Trump)
2017
-
-
-
-
2018
3/12
0/12
0/12
0/12
2019
10/12
4/12
12/12
3/12
Congress
Fiscal Year
Regular Appropriations Bills Enacted by Start of Fiscal Year
Number of Continuing Resolutions to Prevent Funding Gap
Days Spent In Gov't Shutdown/With Funding Gap
104th Congress
(Clinton)
1996
0/13
13
5 Days: 21 Days
1997
13/13
0
-
110th Congress
(Bush)
2008
0/12
4
-
2009
3/12
3
-
111th Congress
(Obama)
2010
1/12
2
-
2011
0/12
8
-
112th Congress
(Obama)
2012
0/12
5
-
2013
0/12
2
-
113th Congress
(Obama)
2014
0/12
4
16 Days
2015
0/12
5
-
114th Congress
(Obama)
2016
0/12
3
-
2017
0/12
2
-
115th Congress
(Trump)
2017
0/12
1
-
2018
0/12
5
<1 day
2019
-
-
-
Congress
Fiscal Year
Enacted As Stand Alone Measures
Enacted in Omnibus Measure(s) or Continuing Resolution
104th Congress
(Clinton)
1996
8
5
1997
7
6
110th Congress
(Bush)
2008
1
11
2009
0
12
111th Congress
(Obama)
2010
6
6
2011
0
12
112th Congress
(Obama)
2012
0
12
2013
0
12
113th Congress
(Obama)
2014
0
12
2015
1
11
114th Congress
(Obama)
2016
0
12
2017
0
1
115th Congress
(Trump)
2017
1
11
2018
0
12
2019
-
-

 

*Transition Year Where the Outgoing President Had Not Submitted a Budget Resolution for the Upcoming Fiscal Year.
**Of the following year.

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: The Fiscal Year 2019 budget and appropriations process shows positive signs so far. President Trump submitted the administration’s budget proposal basically on time, only seven days later than expected. Congress has yet to adopt a budget resolution, however, having missed the April 15, 2018 target date. It seems likely, that Congress will once again forgo a budget for FY 2019, as it has for six of the previous 11 fiscal years, and just go through the appropriations process.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has reported all 12 bills to the full Senate, which it also did for FY 2017, but at no other point since 2007. Three of the bills have been passed by the full Senate, which is rare by the end of June.

The House Appropriations Committee reported 10 of the 12 appropriations bills before the end of June, which is also respectable progress. The full House passed four of those bills, which is about the House average since 2007. This is no guarantee that any of the 12 appropriations bills will be enacted on time. Among the years in the index, Congress has never enacted all 12 bills by the start of the fiscal year on October 1.

EXPIRED AUTHORIZATIONS AS A PERCENTAGE OF FEDERAL SPENDING

FISCAL YEAR1995199720102012201420152016
FUNDS APPROPRIATED FOR PROGRAMS WITH EXPIRED AUTHORIZATIONS$93.9B$89.4B$290.8B$261.1B$301.5B$293.5B$310.3B
NUMBER OF PROGRAMS WITH EXPIRED AUTHROIZATIONS103121250259270260256

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: Spending on programs with expired authorizations has grown as a percent of over overall spending. From FY 2014 through FY 2016, funding for programs with expired authorizations made up one quarter or more of all discretionary spending. This finding suggests that the number of federal programs that have not been reviewed and reauthorized by congressional committees has grown since 1995, when these programs made up about 17 percent of spending.

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