In a 'Fake News' era, trusty C-SPAN offers some facts about your Congress

You can dispute the merits of policies debated or even enacted by the U.S. Congress. But, thanks to C-SPAN, there's not munching debating how productive your elected officials are these days. And, thus, how few are likely to suffer from exhaustion.

Or who are the biggest blabbermouths in the House and Senate. In case even reporters who cover Capitol Hill are unsure, the undisputed reality is now revealed.

It's because, in an era in which the press is facilely maligned as purveyor of "fake news," a bastion of cable TV neutrality offers its own year-end scorecard on the House, Senate and White House. It's a feast for reporters — or just your average citizen wondering about his or her elected officials in the capital.

So there's this: "Only 97 measures were enacted into public law, a lower number than the 115 passed two years ago."

And this: "The first year of a new president’s term is a major period for nominations consideration by the Senate. President Trump has submitted fewer nominations and also had fewer approved than previous first term presidents. Trump has had 58 percent of his nominees confirmed (Bush 1989: 84 percent; Clinton 1993: 67 percent; Bush 2001, 76 percent; Obama 2009, 69 percent)."

Oh, here's one metric on productivity: "The number of hours that the House and Senate were in session continues to decline."

And, "Other than nominations, the workload numbers are similar to previous several years, but much lower than 10 years ago."

Indeed, the House was in session 787 hours in 2017, with the Senate in session 1,045 hours. By comparison, just 10 years earlier the House worked 1,491 hours, while the Senate was in session 1,396 hours. Here's a handy chart you can click on to get all such comparisons dating to 1988.

The data comes via Robert Browning, a Purdue University professor of political science and communications who oversees the C-SPAN Archives located on the West Lafayette, Indiana, campus. He's its executive director.

When it comes to media hogs — defined as who speaks most often on the floor of the House and Senate — C-SPAN offers a tale of the tape.

In the House, the leaders are Pennsylvania Republican Glenn "G.T." Thompson (122 days), Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee (115), Texas Republican Ted Poe (100),  Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (81) and Ohio Democrat Marcy Kaptur (74). Here's a larger breakdown

In the Senate, it's no real surprise: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (147 days) and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (141) lead the way. They're followed by Texas Republican John Cornyn (109), No. 2 Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois (94), Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley (59) and Utah Republican Orrin Hatch (59). Here, too, is a look at the most garrulous in the Senate. 

Now, if you want to know as much about Congress as any reporter — maybe even more — and you've got time to spare, here's the feast of C-SPAN data

As for what Browning, an expert of experts, himself thinks, I asked what, if anything, surprises him.

"One is the slowness in getting the Trump nominations through despite the fact that his party controls the Senate and the threshold is only 50 votes," he says. "The process has been very slow."

"Second, the Congress is really doing less in total measures passed. Also, what the data don't show in number of days is how many pro forma sessions there are. So, the number of days they met is deceiving. The hours are a better measure."

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former chief media writer, The Poynter Institute.

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