The session of Congress that wrapped up Friday is being called the least productive in decades. The 58 major bills that Congress passed and President Obama is on track to sign in 2013 is a historically dismal record (as this November USA Today graphic shows).
But measuring laws passed is a bit of a blunt instrument. For a more refined sense of this Congress’s output, TIME tallied the total number of pages of legislation that either chamber passed. Measured that way, the first session of the 113th Congress was in fact not the least productive. It was just really close.
Total public laws created in a session–that is, one year of a two-year Congress–is not a terribly good way to measure its output. (No good measure should afford equal weight to the Affordable Care Act and the Prevent Deceptive Census Look Alike Mailings Act.) While not all pages of legislation are created alike either, this measure aptly captures the number of major appropriations and policy topics that each Congress tackles.
As page counts go, the Senate is merely the second least productive in the past 14 years, while the House is third-to-last. It’s important to note here that bills are listed on each chart by when they passed that chamber, not when they became law (if they ever did). After all, it seems unfair to penalize the House or Senate for being unproductive simply because they passed a bill that didn’t go all the way.
Source: The United States Project