Rosalind Waltz-Peters, Food Policy Research intern
The 113th Congress has just left its “lame duck” session and the numbers thus far are indicating that it will go down in history looking pretty lame as well. According to the federal register, the 113th Congress has passed just 126 public laws thus far, only 53 of which have been during its second session (2014). This means that of the 7,582 bills introduced during this Congress, only 126 have successfully passed through both the House and Senate.
In comparison, 283 public laws were passed out of the 112th Congress (2011-2012), which was also known for being unproductive. Of the 283 public laws passed in the 112th, 193 passed during the second session (2012).
It should be noted that historically, 50.12% of Congressional legislation is enacted in the last quarter of a Congressional session, or after July 8th of the second year (calculated by Josh Tauberer, the transparency activist who created GovTrack). This would put the 113th Congress on track to pass about 251 laws by the end of its session.
Most Congresses in the last 35 years have passed well over 300 public laws apiece, with the most being 713 during the 100th Congress (1987-1988).  Some might argue that productivity should be looked at in terms of the political climate at the time, rather than just the bills that have become public law.
As seen in Figure 1 (above), the 113th Congress has introduced an amount of bills that is fairly similar to previous sessions, with consideration that we have not yet completed the 113th Congress’ second session. Yet, as seen in Figure 2 (below), the percentage of bills introduced during a session of Congress that ultimately become public law has decreased significantly in recent years.
What it comes down to is that this Congress is significantly worse at negotiating and talking productively; they can generate bills almost as well as any past Congress, but the House and Senate cannot work them through both houses into passed legislation.
For example, 18 of the measures introduced by the 113th Congress were dedicated to repetitive efforts to overturn or incapacitate the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, of the 143 agriculture and food related bills referred to committees thus far in the 113th Congress, only one, the Farm Bill, has been passed and signed by the President.  This does not bode well for the prognosis of Congressional activity in passing agriculture/food-related bills during the rest of the 113th Congress.
 Congressional Clerk’s Resumes: http://library.clerk.house.gov/congressional-data.aspx