Record 7,000 Bills Dropped

Posted December 12, 2003 at 5:47pm

By Ethan Wallison Roll Call Staff It’s not just the economy’s productivity numbers that are soaring.

The legislative session that came to a close last week saw lawmakers establish a new benchmark in one reliable index of Congressional industry: bill-writing.

Nearly 7,000 pieces of legislation were introduced on Capitol Hill this year, a figure that outstrips the production of any previous session of Congress. This includes the first session of the 107th in 2001, when the onset of a new presidential administration and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks combined to unleash a torrent of legislative initiative among Members. Roughly 6,500 pieces of legislation resulted that year.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, also spent more hours in session this year than at any time since 1995, which marked the opening of the first GOP Congress in 40 years.

The obligation was heaviest in the Senate, where Members, divided on questions of organization, judicial nominations and an ambitious agenda that included a major tax cut and a first-ever change to the Medicare program, stayed in session for 1,444 hours.

The figures were culled from the so-called Résumé of Congressional Activity that is custom printed in the Congressional Record at the end of each session.

Comparisons with previous sessions come from a Roll Call analysis of the records compiled during the past 10 years.

In spite of the sharp partisan divide over the Bush administration’s nominees for the federal bench — including first-ever filibusters of selections for the lower courts — the past year did not show any significant drop-off in the rate of confirmations by the Senate.

Of 588 individual “civilian” nominations sent by the White House to Capitol Hill, roughly 62 percent (326) were confirmed before the Senate’s sine die adjournment. The figure does not include military personnel or the clusters of civilian nominees put forward for various advisory councils and the like.

Far smaller percentages of civilian nominees were approved by the GOP Senate in the final year of each term served by former President Bill Clinton. In neither year was the rate of approvals higher than 52 percent.

In fact, last year, in the second session of the 107th Congress, the Senate approved the president’s nominations at a greater rate — 74 percent — than at any time since the GOP returned to power in 1995.

Among House Members, the most prolific by far was Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.), who managed in the course of the session to introduce 106 pieces of legislation — one for about every nine-and-a-half hours the chamber was in session, and more than double the output of any other Representative.

Although Andrews sits on the Education and the Workforce Committee and the Homeland Security Committee, his initiatives found their way into the dockets of virtually every House panel — a reflection of the diversity of interests they covered.

In the Senate, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) was the most active Member in terms of introducing legislation, outpacing such serial sponsors as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Bingaman, the ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a member of the Finance Committee, submitted 144 measures, one for almost each day the Senate was in session this year (166 days).

Unlike other prolific Members, who typically introduce a fair number of resolutions, Bingaman offered only two.