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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 March 31, 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

Both chambers came close to meeting the standard of a five-day workweek in Washington during the first three months of 2019. By BPC’s standard, each chamber should work at least 45 days in that period. The House was at work in the Capitol for 40 days, which is on par with the previous congress, but an improvement over recent congresses. The Senate worked 44 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 12 bills in the first quarter of the 116th Congress, which is well below all of its recent predecessors except the 113th Congress. In the Senate, committees reported 17 bills, which is about on par with most of its recent predecessors.

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 19 cloture votes on legislation between January and the end of March. In that period last congress, the Senate took just 1 cloture vote. The 114th Congress (2015-2016) and the 110th Congress (2009-2010) saw similar numbers of cloture votes, but the current Senate is well above the 113th, 112th, 111th, and 104th Congresses.

Among the 19 votes in the current congress, cloture was invoked in only 7 instances and failed in 12, 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 67
112th 51 32
113th 97 80
114th 168 105
115th 16 2
116th 21 4

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—17—of any first three-month period in the index. In some recent congresses, the Senate considered more than ten times as many amendments in that time. The only congress with fewer amendments was the 115th.

The distribution of amendments between the majority and minority was 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, 76 percent of amendments considered were sponsored by the majority Republicans and just 24 percent came from the minority Democrats.

Open Structured Closed
104th 73 % 23 % 4 %
110th 17 % 33 % 50 %
111th 0 % 46 % 54 %
112th 27 % 33 % 40 %
113th 0 % 56 % 44 %
114th 0 % 37.5 % 62.5 %
115th 0 % 37.5 % 62.5 %
116th 0 % 49 % 51 %
 104th110th111th112th113th114th115th116th
Open194040000
Structured6865591519
Closed112764152520

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 quarter of 2019. Members of the House were unable to offer amendments to more than half of the bills that came to the floor. Sixty-one percent of rules were closed, meaning no amendments could be offered. Zero rules were open. Thirty-nine percent of rules were structured, meaning amendments preapproved by the majority-controlled Rules Committee could be offered.

A lack of open rules and high number of closed rules has become the norm in recent Congresses. The 114th and 115th Congresses also had zero open rules and more than 60 percent closed rules. Similarly, the 111th Congress had zero open rules and 54 percent closed rules while the 113th has zero open rules and 44 percent closed rules.

7 104th 0 110th 1 111th 0 112th 0 113th 0 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, one conference report has been approved by both chambers in the 116th Congress. Comparatively, the 110th, 112th, 113th, and 114th Congresses had not relied on conference committees to resolve differences on any bills by this point. The 111th enacted one bill through a conference committee and the 104th did so for two.

Budget Process
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
Chamber Action on Appropriations
CongressFiscal YearHouse Committee Action on Regular Appropriations by March 31House Floor Action on Regular Appropriations by March 31Senate Committee Action on Regular Appropriations by March 31Senate Floor Action on Regular Appropriations by March 31
104th Congress
(Clinton)

19960/130/130/130/13
19970/130/130/130/13
110th Congress
(Bush)

20080/120/120/120/12
20090/120/120/120/12
111th Congress
(Obama)

20100/120/120/120/12
20110/120/120/120/12
112th Congress
(Obama)

20120/120/120/120/12
20130/120/120/120/12
113th Congress
(Obama)

20140/120/120/120/12
20150/120/120/120/12
114th Congress
(Obama)

20160/120/120/120/12
20170/120/120/120/12
115th Congress
(Trump)

2017----
20180/120/120/120/12
20190/120/120/120/12
116th Congress
(Trump)

2019----
202010/1210/120/120/12
Final Action on Appropriations
CongressFiscal YearRegular Appropriations Bills Enacted by Start of Fiscal YearNumber of Continuing Resolutions to Prevent Funding GapDays Spent In Gov't Shutdown/With Funding Gap
104th Congress
(Clinton)

19960/13135 Days; 21 Days
199713/130-
110th Congress
(Bush)

20080/124-
20093/123-
111th Congress
(Obama)

20101/122-
20110/128-
112th Congress
(Obama)

20120/125-
20130/122-
113th Congress
(Obama)

20140/12416 Days
20150/125-
114th Congress
(Obama)

20160/123-
20171/122-
115th Congress
(Trump)

2017-1-
20180/125'1 day***; 3 days'
20195/12213
116th Congress
(Trump)

2019-122
2020---
Final Action on Appropriations (cont’d)
CongressFiscal YearEnacted As Stand Alone MeasuresEnacted in Consolidated or Omnibus Measure(s) or Continuing Resolution
104th Congress
(Clinton)

199685
199776
110th Congress
(Bush)

2008111
2009012
111th Congress
(Obama)

201066
2011012
112th Congress
(Obama)

2012012
2013012
113th Congress
(Obama)

2014012
2015111
114th Congress
(Obama)

2016012
201701
115th Congress
(Trump)

2017011
2018012
201905
115th Congress
(Trump)

201907
2020--

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 116th Congress began during a partial government shutdown that was initiated during the prior congress, and, as a result, inherited responsibility for funding the government for fiscal year 2019. After 22 additional days of the shutdown in 2019 and reliance on one continuing resolution, the government was fully funded by a consolidated appropriations bill.

Initial steps for funding the government for FY 2020 have not been successful. The Trump administration’s budget proposal was sent to Congress 35 days past the statutory deadline and Congress had not adopted a budget resolution by the end of the first quarter.

1995 17.2 %
1997 16.8 %
2010 21.6 %
2012 20.3 %
2014 25.6 %
2015 25.1 %
2016 26.2 %
2019 23 %
 19951997201020122014201520162019
Structured $93.9B$89.4B$290.8B$261.1B$301.5B$293.5B$310.3B$306.7B
Closed103121250259270260256257

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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