118th Congress on track to become one of the least productive in US history

Only 34 bills were passed last year, according to data.

January 10, 2024, 7:30 PM

Lawmakers are halfway through the congressional session, and it looks like it could be a historic one for the wrong reasons, according to congressional data.

The 118th Congress is on track to being one of the least functional sessions ever, with only 34 bills passed since January of last year, the lowest number of bills passed in the first year of a congressional session since the Great Depression, according to congressional records.

"Even comparing against other periods of divided government, 2023 was definitely not a high water mark for Congress' productivity," Molly Reynolds, a senior governance fellow at the nonpartisan research group the Brookings Institution, told ABC News.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson addresses the House chamber of the Capitol after winning the speakership, Oct. 25, 2023.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Some of the 34 bills last year were not controversial, like the one that renamed Veterans Affairs clinics and one that minted a coin commemorating the anniversary of the Marine Corps.

Others were bills that had to be passed to keep the government funded or avoid default.

Congressional members of both political parties expressed their frustrations to reporters last year.

"This is the most ineffective congress that we have seen," Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) told reporters.

"Shame on us, both parties. We sold the American public out on everything," Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) told reporters.

By comparison, the 113th and 114th Congresses, which took place during former President Barack Obama's second term, passed 196 and 329 bills, respectively, according to congressional data. The 113th Congress, in which the Republicans had control over the House while the Democrats had control of the Senate, was on track to be the least productive Congress after it only passed 56 bills in its first year, according to the data.

The 115th and 116th Congresses, which took place during former President Donald Trump's term in office, passed 442 and 344 bills, respectively, the data showed.

The 117th Congress, which took place during President Joe Biden's first term, passed 362 bills, according to the data.

Reynolds said the gridlock is not only fueled by the distance between the two parties, but also the recent internal fighting among the Republicans, who have a slight majority in the House.

House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks to the press after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Capitol Hill, Dec. 12, 2023.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

The House of Representatives voted to remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his seat in October, with a vote of 216-210, marking the first time in history that a House speaker was ousted. The House operated in limbo for more than three weeks as House Republicans went back and forth over his successor before voting for Rep. Mike Johnson, (R-La).

In December, embattled New York Republican George Santos became the first sitting House member in more than 20 years to be expelled by his colleagues following mounting months of scandals, probes and alleged ethics violations.

The Democratic-controlled Senate is also dealing with an embattled member.

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez was indicted on several federal charges in September after prosecutors alleged he took gifts, including gold bars, wads of cash and luxury watches, in exchange for doing official favors for New Jersey businessmen and the governments of Egypt and Qatar. Menendez, D-N.J., who was hit with more charges last week, has refused to step down. He has pleaded not guilty and has maintained his innocence.

Reynolds said it is unlikely that Washington, D.C., leaders will be picking up the pace this year, as there are little signs that the divided Congress and tense election year will do anything to alleviate the current gridlock.

There was already chaos on the House floor Wednesday as a group of 13 conservatives joined with Democrats to end a procedural vote to protest Johnson's deal with Democrats to avert a shutdown.

The House was forced to scrap the rest of the votes scheduled for the day over the revolt.

ABC News' Lauren Peller contributed to this report.

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