The current 116th Congress will be the least productive with fewer enacted bills than any legislative session since the 1970s, while social media activity among members of Congress and the introduction of legislation skyrocketed in 2020.
A recent report published by the public affairs research group Quorum found that only 28 of the 5,117 bills introduced in the House and Senate this year were enacted. Congress by comparison introduced 8,364 bills in 2019 and 169 of those were eventually signed into law.
The number of bills enacted by the 116th Congress is notably smaller than that of its predecessor. While the 115th Congress introduced nearly 3,000 fewer bills during its session in 2017 and 2018, President Donald Trump signed 417 bills into law according to the Congressional record.
The primary reason for this could be attributed to Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress at that time. Democrats gained a majority of House seats following the 2018 midterm elections and current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi replaced former Speaker Paul Ryan.
It is expected that periods of divided government can lead to less enacted legislation, according to Axios, but productivity in Congress is still the lowest it has been in decades.
Social media activity among members of Congress increased dramatically in 2020 as the number of bills passed declined, according to the Quorum report. Lawmakers posted on social media 784,614 times this year across platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
Researchers found that for every bill introduced in Congress, lawmakers posted 98 times on Twitter, 60 times on Facebook, 5 times on Instagram and 4 times on YouTube. Lawmakers also collectively released 13 press releases for every bill introduced.
For every bill signed into law and enacted, lawmakers posted 17,912 times on Twitter, 11,016 times on Facebook, 874 times on Instagram and 669 times on YouTube. Lawmakers also collectively released 2,312 press releases for every bill signed into law and enacted.
Members of Congress frequently posted about the coronavirus on social media as hashtags and key words related to the pandemic dominated user feeds among both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, according to the Quorum report. Other prominent events lawmakers posted about this year included the 2020 Census and civil unrest related to police violence.
“Congress did a lot more posting on social media and a lot less legislating,” researchers wrote. “Twitter replaced floor debates in 2020. Memes and designed graphics replaced the classic floor posters you spot on CSPAN.” (RELATED: ‘I Never Met Her’: Joe Manchin Slams Ocasio-Cortez After She Took A Jab At Him On Twitter)
Congressional job approval among voters remains low amid criticisms of gridlock and an ineffective legislative agenda, according to Gallup polling data. A Gallup poll released in November found that only 23% of voters approved of the way Congress is handling its job while 73% disapproved.