Many indicators of the nature of political competition illustrate the growing disconnect between political competition and the public interest.
The number of bills actually passed and signed into law has fallen dramatically, bumping up against an all-time low since consistent data have been available (see Figure 1).*4
Highly salient policy matters, such as health care or immigration, remain stalled for years, bills become more complex, and one Congress punts the decision to the next (see Figure 2). Other research suggests that major legislation is also declining.
The laws actually passed are becoming more and more partisan (see Figure 3). Traditionally, conference committees brought together Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate to reconcile differences in the bills passed by both houses. Today, voting is more partisan on bills, as shown by the rising proportion of “party unity votes,” the declining bipartisan
support for landmark legislation, and conference committees that are nearly extinct. Parties rarely invite each other to participate in reconciling differences.
The party in power increasingly pushes through important legislation, with little or no support from the minority party.
The share of bills introduced with bipartisan co- sponsorship from 2013–2015 was just 35% for the median Representative and 30% for the median Senator. Bills introduced by Representatives in safe seats (vulnerable only to a primary challenge) appear to be less bipartisan than those in competitive seats.5
Lastly, the number of moderates in Congress has declined dramatically over the last several decades. The basis for bipartisan compromise has eroded sharply.
*The numbers are worse than they look here, because many of the laws that do get passed are not substantive—for example, post offices or anniversary commemorations.