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It wasn’t the ‘Do-Nothing Congress’ after all

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • 113th Congress enacted 300 laws, up from 283 in 112th
  • Senate passed more House-sponsored bills than vice-versa
  • Paid sick leave is Obama’s latest State of the Union plank — what else has he laid out?

The Last Congress: Final Report: We now know just how productive the last Congress was — thanks to one of the more underappreciated reports in U.S. government, the Resume of Congressional Activity.This one-page sheet summarizes the activity of each Congressional year and the report for 2014 is now out.

What does it show? Partially thanks to a flurry of lame-duck legislation, Congress enacted a total of 224 laws in 2014, a dramatic increase from the 76 enacted in 2013. Before you draw too many conclusions, consider that in general Congress passes significantly more legislation in election years than in non-election years. So, let’s compare the two-year Congress. The 113th Congress passed 300 laws between 2013-2014. That’s actually more than the previous, 112th Congress, which passed 283.

By this measure, the “Do-Nothing Congress” trope should go the 112th Congress, the one in session 2011-2012, before it goes to this past Congress.

What the Resume of Congressional Activity doesn’t show is the significance of the legislation passed. Things like how many bills were specific to a single piece of land. (Before you say the words “post office,” we do know that in the past few years Congress has cut down on the number of post-office-naming bills.) But this report does show something important — the volume of legislation in each Congress.

Who stopped more bills from passing — the House or Senate? One last tidbit from this report. While House Republicans can point to a long list of significant bills they passed last year that died without even a vote in the Senate, this report shows that, just looking at numbers, the Senate passed more House-sponsored bills than the House did Senate-sponsored ones. Specifics: the Senate passed 153 House bills while the House passed far fewer, just 57, from the Senate. That partially reflects that fewer bills make it out of the Senate in general, including Senate-sponsored bills. But it shows that both chambers did their part to block legislation from the other chamber and party.

Paid sick leave is latest Obama State of the Union plank: President Obama will roll out his latest pre-State of the Union initiative Thursday on paid leave. He will call on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which was first introduced in 2009 and went nowhere; encourage states to act and will incentivize them to do so with a competitive grant program; and sign a memorandum today directing federal agencies to allow government workers to take an “advance” of up to six weeks paid leave. That means the workers have to pay back the time, a White House official confirmed on a conference call with reporters. That seems to send a bit of a mixed message to private industry if the federal government isn’t willing to even go further. By the way, tracking the president’s pre-State of the Union planks, here’s what he’s laid out so far and where he did it:

  • Touting autos and manufacturing (in Detroit)
  • Pushing to make it easier to own a home (in Phoenix)
  • Free community college (in Knoxville, Tennessee — this included a riff on the economy, a version of which is likely to show up in his speech Tuesday)
  • Expanded broadband/high-speed Internet (in Cedar Falls, Iowa)
  • Paid sick leave (roundtable with women)

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1973, President Nixon announced the suspension of all U.S. offensive action in North Vietnam. Who was sent to negotiate the peace terms with the North Vietnamese? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to roy wait ‏(@ind22rxw) for guessing Wednesday’s trivia: Which other two world leaders signed the Trilateral Statement in 1994 with President Clinton? The answer: Russia’s Boris Yeltsin and Ukraine’s Leonid Kravchuk.

  • The FBI announced Wednesday they arrested a Cincinnati man who was planning to attack the Capitol and kill Capitol police and members of Congress.

  • Four Secret Service senior officials are being forced out and two others are retiring in the biggest shake-up at the agency since the director resigned.

  • From launching book tours to hiring staff to meeting with top donors, several potential presidential candidates have started taking steps in the long race to the White House. Gwen Ifill spoke with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and the Washington Post’s Nia-Malika Henderson about the political landscape for 2016.

  • House Republicans’ spending bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security passed 236 to 191. But 26 moderate Republicans voted against an amendment that would have ended the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

  • House Republicans decided against attempting to restore the portion of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.

  • Mitt Romney is returning to a former aide who worked for Chris Christie and most recently served as Scott Brown’s manager in his campaign for Senate in New Hampshire.

  • During his visit to New Hampshire Wednesday, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul discussed a range of topics from construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to militarization of police to recipients of federal disability relief who are “gaming the system.”

  • Paul also had some fighting words for some fellow 2016ers in an interview with NH1. Of his spat with Marco Rubio: “I try never to start it. I just finish it.” And in a veiled shot at Romney: “I think in the last campaign we should have been more affirmative and stronger on criticizing Hillary Clinton and the President on Benghazi.” Expect Benghazi to come up A LOT with Republicans in 2016.

  • Minority Leader Harry Reid is expected to make it back for his first day in the new Congress next week, after suffering injuries during an exercise accident.

  • Even a Texas Republican from one of the most conservative districts in the country says he’s “open to any solution that would fix sequestration.”

  • The Boston Marathon bombing case will continue without delay, after the judge rejected a request from the suspect’s attorney to have the trial postponed in light of the terrorist attack in Paris.

  • The GOP has moved their presidential convention up to mid-July to get a boost on general election fundraising.

  • For the first time since its botched execution last April, Oklahoma correction officials are preparing an execution for Thursday with a new death chamber, training and higher dosage drugs.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.


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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Rachel Wellford at rwellford-at-newshour-dot-org.

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