What Percentage of Bills Become Law?

The Top 4%

The percentage of bills that become law varies from year to year. Between the years 2017 to 2019, the 115th Congress turned 443 out of over 10,000 bills into laws. This means that roughly 4½ % of the bills proposed in that time period became laws. The number of bills that make it to Congress changes from year to year, as do the percentages of bills that Congress votes into law. There are no minimums or maximums on the number of bills that can be introduced to Congress each year, nor are there minimums or maximums on the number or percentage of these that Congress can pass into becoming bills.   

For the years 2017 – 2019, the bills that made it past Congress and the president to become laws were in the top 4% of all the bills that were presented to Congress.

Congress

There are 535 members of Congress that represent the people of their district in the United States.

435 members serve in the U.S. House of Representatives for two-year terms and are considered for reelection every even numbered year. The number of representatives for the House of Representatives for each state depends on the population of the state. States that have higher populations have more representatives than states with lower populations. Less populated (and often, smaller in size) states such as Vermont and Delaware only have one representative each, whereas a more populated state such as California has 53 representatives. Members of the House of Representatives that represent states with more than one representative each represent a portion of the state known as a Congressional District. Congressional Districts average about 700,000 people.

100 members of Congress serve in the U.S. Senate for six-year terms and elections to the Senate are staggered over even years. This results in only about ⅓ of the Senate being up for reelection during any one election. Regardless of population size, each state sends two Senators to represent their entire state in the Senate.

Committee System

Congress deals with a very broad range of bills from different areas of U.S. public policy. They are confronted with bills to reform health care, gun control, education, politics and campaigns, environmental issues, and public safety, to name just a few of the many different areas of policy that bills come to it from. Congress uses a committee system to make the review of bills more efficient compared to if this than if it had to be done on the House of Representatives’ or Senate’s floor. Another efficiency that reviewing bills at the committee level allows for is for members of Congress to have areas of expertise so they do not need to do as much background research than if they were reviewing different bills from different policy areas. Committees are created and dissolved based on the particular issues a Congress is facing.

Even with committees and other attempts at efficiency, it takes a long time before a bill passes through Congress and on to the president to become a law. The percentage of bills that become laws changes each year but in the years of the 115th Congress, a little over 4% of the laws that were presented to Congress became laws.

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