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LATEST DATA: Both Chambers of Congress Still Performing Poorly, Need More Openness and Deliberation

Washington, D.C. – Six months into the 116th Congress, most of the indicators of the quality of the legislative process are negative, according to the latest Healthy Congress Index, released today by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

“Despite new promises from the Democratic leadership in the House and old promises from the Republican leadership in the Senate, Congress has not become more open and deliberative,” says Michael Thorning, associate director of BPC’s Congress Project.

“Two findings in particular—floor amendments and bills reported by committee—show that the House and Senate are not engaging in the kind of deliberation and debate necessary to develop quality bills.”

Key findings include:

In the House

  • 51 percent of rules were closed, zero rules were open, and 49 percent of rules were structured (in other words, only certain amendments can be considered). In the 115th Congress, 53 percent of the rules were closed and 47 percent were structured at the six-month mark.
  • Committees reported only 95 bills between January and June 2019, the second-lowest in recent years. In the 115th Congress, there were 137 bills reported by this point.

In the Senate

  • Only 27 amendments were considered during the first six months, the second-lowest number in recent years. In fact, in some years,the Senate has considered more than ten times as many amendments by this point.
  • Committees reported only 74 bills between January and June 2019. In the previous Congress, 102 bills were reported by this point.

Thorning says more bills should be brought to the floor in the House under open rules, which would “allow members significantly greater opportunities to offer amendments.”

“In the Senate, the Majority Leader should allow ample consideration of amendments from both parties, and not use procedural mechanisms to block them,” he says.

ABOUT THE HEALTHY CONGRESS INDEX

The Healthy Congress Index, first developed in 2015, is a quarterly report that systematically evaluates Congress’s ability to legislate and govern based on key metrics looking at how open the Senate is to debates and amendments, how effectively Congress deliberates and resolves legislative differences between houses, and the number of working days Congress spends in Washington.

The report compares data from current and previous Congresses so that meaningful conclusions can be made about how to best improve the overall functionality of our legislative procedures. This dataset covers the period from the start of the 116th Congress through the end of June 2019.

Read the full Healthy Congress Index

Read our analysis of the data