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118th Congress to be the most unproductive in decades

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The U.S. House of Representatives made a lot of news this year. There was the contentious election of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, then his ouster and then the three-week struggle to select a new speaker in Mike Johnson.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

There was also the expulsion of George Santos and now an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. But none of those fights were actually about making laws.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHIP ROY: Anybody sitting in the complex - you want to come down to the floor and come explain to me one material, meaningful, significant thing the Republican majority has done besides, well, I guess it's not as bad as the Democrats?

CHANG: That was representative Chip Roy of Texas on the House floor in November, expressing his frustration with how his Republican majority has governed. The House has voted 749 times this year, but it's passed only 27 bills that have become law. That makes this Congress the least productive in decades.

SHAPIRO: Now, the Republican-led House does face President Biden and a Senate controlled by Democrats. The House has passed a lot of bills that are non-starters with Democrats, but that tally of 27 laws is far lower than other recent years, even those with divided government. In 2013, for example, when Republicans also controlled the House and Democrats also controlled the Senate and the presidency, the House passed 72 bills that became law.

CHANG: The laws that have been signed this year have largely been uncontroversial, like two laws to rename VA clinics or one to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Marines. Or they've been absolutely essential, like the deal to lift the debt ceiling or resolutions to fund the government.

SHAPIRO: This year deep divisions have surfaced not only between the parties but also among House Republicans. A few months ago, we asked Republican strategist Ron Bonjean about the removal of Speaker McCarthy led by a small group of hard-right lawmakers.

RON BONJEAN: I am really shocked on one hand, and on the other hand, it's rather surprising that he lasted this long considering the current dynamics in the House.

CHANG: So will 2024 be any different when it comes to Congress and productivity? Well, it won't have any shortage of opportunities. Congress will enter 2024 with a big Ukraine and Israel aid package to consider tied to immigration policy changes. And then there's the continuing threat of a government shutdown, with funding deadlines as early as January 19.

(SOUNDBITE OF WOODRA$TA SONG, "EARLY MORNING SMOKE SE$H") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Gurjit Kaur
Gurjit Kaur is a producer for NPR's All Things Considered. A pop culture nerd, her work primarily focuses on television, film and music.
Patrick Jarenwattananon