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Healthy Congress Index Update: Congress Continuing Toward Improved Effectiveness

Washington, D.C.– The 114th Congress continues to show promising progress compared to recent congresses, especially with upticks in the number of working days in session and amendments considered in the Senate, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) newly-updated Healthy Congress Index. These positive trends toward a more effective Congress build on the initial signs of progress found in April’s first set of data.

“The good news is that Congress is continuing to move in the right direction: staying in session more often, empowering committees to work together,” said Senator Tom Daschle, a co-chair of BPC’s Commission on Political Reform (CPR).

“There is still a lot of work to be done, but the trend is moving a direction where the American people should take notice.” “No one benefits when Congress is unable to move legislation through the process,” said Sen. Trent Lott, a CPR co-chair. “The American people deserve a legislative body that is able to debate the most important issues of the day.”

The measures of the Healthy Congress Index include: the number of days Congress spent on legislative business; how open the Senate was to debate and amendments; and how effectively Congress followed “regular order” by allowing a substantial committee process, robust floor debate and resolving of House and Senate differences in conference committees.

Key findings of the second quarter update to the Healthy Congress Index include:

  • Congressional committees have been extremely active, reporting a significantly larger number of bills than the previous two congresses and at levels comparable to or slightly higher than the past congresses measured.
  • The Senate has seen an increase in the number of working days, nearly on pace for 45-50 working days per quarter, while the House has had about as many working days as recent congresses.
  • Cloture votes in the Senate have increased considerably, which is due in part to multiple attempts to invoke cloture, and thereby end debate, on the same underlying measure.

Read the full results of the Index and further analysis on BPC’s website.

The index is part of BPC’s long-term effort to bring accountability to Congress and answer the question: “How is Congress governing?” The criteria are based on key recommendations released last year by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform, which was created to investigate the causes and consequences of America’s partisan political divide and make recommendations to reinvigorate a political process that can work during a time of hyper-polarized politics.

“The challenges—both domestic and international—facing our country today are as serious and sobering as ever,” said Secretary Dan Glickman, a CPR co-chair. “We need a Congress equipped to confront those challenges and make progress on the issues Americans care about, rather than one mired in gridlock and acrimony.”

“After years of being moribund, Congress at least has a pulse,” said Sen. Olympia Snowe, a CPR co-chair. “Now, a number of difficult and divisive issues on the horizon will test whether this is truly a road to recovery from gridlock and dysfunction that will allow Congress to address the critical areas that matter to Americans. We must hold Congress accountable to ensure that they do.”

The index compiles and analyzes data from a variety of publicly available records for both the current and past congresses, including the Congressional Record and House and Senate daily calendars. Today’s update follows on the initial April 2015 release. Additional updates will follow in October 2015 and January 2016.