A new CAP Action analysis of data from Congress.gov* makes clear that the House has been incapacitated by drama, a struggle for power, and extremism instead of governing—and that’s made it one of the least effective and most absent Houses in modern American history.
Speaker McCarthy’s House is historically ineffective
Only 12 bills—14, if including resolutions—have been enacted into law under Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) leadership. That’s the lowest number passed and signed into law by September 25 of the first year of a Congress in modern history (using data available on Congress.gov going back to 1973). The CAP Action analysis of Congress.gov data reveals, on average, by this point, the House passed 52 bills (70, including resolutions) signed into law. That average drops to nearly 49 when including only years where the House and White House were controlled by different parties (70, including resolutions). This shows that the lack of House-passed bills signed into law this year is not merely a reflection of divided government, as it fails to stack up to the efficacy of previous Republican-led Houses serving under Democratic presidents.
McCarthy’s House has passed 224 pieces of legislation, including legislation such as resolutions. This is the least productive output of any House by September 25 of the first legislative year since the Republican-led 113th (2013-2014), which passed 205. It’s worth noting that, like Speaker McCarthy’s House, the 113th Republican-led House also consumed itself with an unnecessary default crisis and a government shutdown. On average, by this point, the House has passed an average of nearly 319 pieces of legislation by September 19, using data available on Congress.gov going back to 1973. That average drops to 299 when including years where the House and the White House were controlled by different parties.
“It’s hard to pass anything in this place. We started out in a five-seat majority. I got one member who’s now resigned, we’ve got a couple of members who are out as well. Anything we do is pretty tough,” Speaker McCarthy told reporters Monday, September 18, amid a struggle within his own caucus to avoid a self-inflicted government shutdown.
With the same size House majority, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) passed 358 bills into law in the last Congress—many of which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. These laws include:
- American Rescue Plan
- Inflation Reduction Act
- Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
- CHIPS and Science Act
- Bipartisan Safer Communities Act
- PACT Act
- Electoral Count Reform Act
- Respect for Marriage Act
- Postal Service Reform Act
“This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down. That doesn’t work,” McCarthy told reporters on Thursday, September 21, after the House failed to pass a rule to fund the Department of Defense for the second time in a week.
According to CNN’s Kristin Wilson, since 1995, the House failed to pass a rule only eight times, each time under Republican control (former Speaker Newt Gingrich failed six times in four years, former Speaker Dennis Hastert two times in eight years). McCarthy has failed to pass a rule three times in eight months. Former Speakers Pelosi, John Boehner, and Paul Ryan never lost a rule vote.
As Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) put it, “Passing a rule in the House is like hitting a ball off a tee and Republicans have now swung and missed twice this week. Kevin McCarthy keeps making history and Republicans can’t govern.”
The House is barely bothering to show up to conduct the people’s business
In 2019, after Democrats took back the House, McCarthy stood on the steps of the Capitol and said, “I have one question for the Democrats after their first 100 days: what have you accomplished? Name me one problem you have solved. America deserves better.”
Flash forward to McCarthy becoming speaker: The House is projected to be in session for 117 days in 2023, a smaller number than any year since 2006, when the Republican House was swept out of power in light of rampant corruption and ethics troubles under then-Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX).
There are just days to stave off a government shutdown, but the House of Representatives has passed not one bill this month to prevent one. Unfortunately, this analysis reveals that Speaker McCarthy’s MAGA Republican House is failing to do their jobs, show up for work, or even fulfill their most basic obligation of keeping the federal government’s lights on.
*Authors’ note: The legislative totals in this analysis come from the database on Congress.gov, looking at each Congress to see how many bills and resolutions passed the House or were signed into law by September 25 of the first year of the Congress. To gain a richer understanding of the data, these totals were averaged and categorized based on whether the House and White House were controlled by the same party.