The Blog

Who's 'Not Doing Anything'?

GOP House Has Passed Five Times As Many Bills as Dem Senate.

9:14 AM, Jul 3, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Twice in the past week, President Obama has needled Republicans in the House of Representatives by saying that while he's doing his job, the GOP House is "not doing anything." The first time was when he was in Minneapolis to spend a "day in the life" of Rebekah, a mother concerned about making ends meet:

And, now, some of you may have read -- so we take these actions and then now Republicans are mad at me for taking these actions.  They’re not doing anything, and then they’re mad that I’m doing something. 

The second time the president used the phrase was Monday in Georgetown in Washington, D.C. in a speech on a familiar topic for the president, upgrading roads and bridges:

It’s not crazy, it’s not socialism.  (Laughter.)  It’s not the imperial presidency -- no laws are broken.  We’re just building roads and bridges like we’ve been doing for the last, I don’t know, 50, 100 years.  But so far, House Republicans have refused to act on this idea.  I haven’t heard a good reason why they haven’t acted -- it’s not like they’ve been busy with other stuff.  (Laughter.)  No, seriously.  (Laughter.)  I mean, they’re not doing anything.  Why don’t they do this?

While the president is hardly the first to label the legislature a "Do Nothing" Congress (Harry Truman famously did so in the 1950s), the president has directed his ire at the House rather than the Congress as a whole, leaving the Senate unscathed. But an analysis of the numbers shows that his shots may be misdirected.

According to GovTrack.us, a privately run website that tracks congressional activity, so far in the 113th Congress the House has passed 297 bills (280) or resolutions (17) that originated in the House. By contrast, the Senate during the same time has passed only 59. In spite of his words that the House has "done nothing," the president has put his signature on 90 House bills and resolutions and 35 Senate bills and resolutions for a total of 125.

Even compared to prior Congresses, this House does not appear to be as idle as the president suggests. Bills spiked during the 110th and 111th Congresses, but otherwise the 297 passed by the House in the 113th Congress is not far from the historical norm for the past several decades, particularly given that the 113th Congress is still in session (again, from GovTrack.us):

Again in contrast, bills passed by Senate have been down sharply since Harry Reid took over as majority leader, with the Senate in the 113th Congress on track to pass the fewest number of bills of any Senate as far back as 1973 (as far as the records at GovTrack.us go):

While the significance of the bills passed by the House and Senate may be debated, and while the president's frustrations with the House center around legislation (such as comprehensive immigration reform) where wide differences separate the parties, the numbers indicate that it's not so much that the GOP House isn't "doing anything"; the GOP is just not doing what the president wants.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 15 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers