Effective Lawmaking: How Power Has Shifted in the Last Quarter Century

Alan Wiseman on Effective Lawmaking

There are 535 members of Congress who attempt to pass legislation on behalf of their constituents. However, not all members have the same chance at passing laws, with much of the true power held in the hands of the few. Until the 1990s, House committee chairs were responsible for an average of 3.6 bills passed in each two-year session of Congress. In 2020, this number dropped to 1.3 bills passed. This swing stems from a newly Republican-controlled House in 1995, which shifted power away from committee chairs to party leaders. Since then, both parties have continued this reform, rewarding party loyalty and electioneering, rather than cultivating policy expertise, ultimately deteriorating effective lawmaking in Congress.

Alan Wiseman is the chair of the Vanderbilt political science department and co-director of the Center for Effective Lawmaking, a collaboration between Vanderbilt University and the University of Virginia that seeks to advance the generation, communication, and use of new knowledge about the ​​effectiveness of individual lawmakers and U.S. legislative institutions. The Center has developed a non-partisan scoring model to measure the lawmaking effectiveness of individual members of Congress