Do-Nothing Congress? Americans Think Congress Passes Too Many Laws, Wrong Kinds of Legislation


This Congress has frequently been called a do-nothing Congress, but this may not necessarily be a bad thing. The latest Reason-Rupe poll asked Americans if they agree or disagree that "Congress passes too few laws." Just 34 percent said Congress passes too few laws.

Asked if "Congress passes too many laws," 56 percent of Americans said Congress passes too many laws, while 40 percent disagreed.

When Congress does take action, Americans don't like the resulting laws. Over two-thirds, 67 percent, said Congress passes "the wrong kinds of laws."  

Still, despite their disappointment in the volume and types of legislation Congress passes, the public wants lawmakers to get somethingdone.   Sixty-seven percent of Americans told Reason-Rupe they want members of Congress to "work together and compromise more, even if I do not like the resulting laws."

Just 28 percent said they'd prefer to have "partisan gridlock blocking legislation than for them to pass laws I do not like."

A notable partisan difference exists on this question. Eighty percent of Democrats said they want compromise in Congress, even if it means passing legislation they do not like, compared to 60 percent of Republicans.  A smaller number, 53 percent, of independents said they want compromise. 

Meanwhile 35 percent of independents, 37 percent of Republicans, and only 17 percent of Democrats said they would rather have gridlock than laws they do not like.

Tea party supporters were twice as likely as those who do not support the movement to prefer gridlock to passing laws they do not like (43 percent to 22 percent). Nevertheless, even a majority of tea partiers (53 percent) favor Congressional compromise to gridlock. Within the Republican coalition, there is a considerable difference between tea partiers and Republicans who do not identify with the movement. Sixty-nine percent of non-tea party Republicans favor compromise even if they do not like the resulting laws, sixteen points higher than tea partiers. Different priorities regarding compromise and sticking to principles in part helps explain the ongoing intra-partisan turmoil occurring within the Republican Party.

Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of the job Congress is doing, and the 22 percent who do approve of Congress's job performance in general are still critical of their legislative abilities–44 percent say Congress passes too many laws and half, fifty one percent, think they pass the wrong type.  

Congressional approval is still low, 22 percent, but has increased six points since the May Reason-Rupe poll


Nationwide telephone poll conducted September 4-8 2013 interviewed 1013 adults on both mobile (509) and landline (504) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.7%. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full poll results found here. Full methodology can be found here.

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  1. Emily has been a busy woman this past week.

  2. “It’s not my Congressmen who are the problem! It’s the ones from the other states!” and thus 90% get reelected.

    It might be interesting to see a poll of how much people approve of their own Congress-critters compared to the rest.

      1. Ah, never mind, it was imbedded in your comment.

        I really need to cut down on the booze… at some point.

    1. No, it’s definately my congresscritters that are the problem. I keep trying to get rid of them, but it’s like an infestation.

      1. I can predict the outcome of an election with about 80% accuracy by taking the inverse of my ballot.

      2. Considering McCain is one of mine, yeah, put me in the “my congressholes are part of the problem” camp.

  3. They could spend the next year repealing laws, and that would only scratch the surface of addressing our problems.

    1. I’ve often thought that every session should specifically include time to repeal laws that are no longer applicable or just useless.

      I believe the tax levied to fund the Spanish American war was only repealed just a few years ago.

      1. My wife had a great idea a while back.

        ALL laws must sunset after X years and may only be reinstated through a full up legislative process on each INDIVIDUAL law and signature from the executive.

        1. Combine that with my requirement that no bill can be voted on until it is read, out loud, on the floor of the House and Senate, by a Congressman (and only one bill at a time can be read), and I think we have a winner.

          1. 1. Every law self-destructs after one year.

            2. Every law must be up for one month of review before votes are counted.

            3. Every congress critter proposes his own bills, and vote sin favor of other bills. No congress critters, or committees of them, can prevent other congress critters from proposing and voting on bills. (cuts party power)

            4. All laws can be challenged for defects, and if any part is found defective, the entire law is thrown out. (discourages combining multiple laws into one renewal bill)

            Defects includes, but are not limited to, not meeting the publicly stated goals as illustrated by speeches, promises, preambles, cutesy bill name, etc; being internally inconsistent; being inconsistently enforced.

            No. 4 would ideally allow challenges by anyone covered by the law, but there has to be some way to limit the defect lawsuits to a reasonable number. I’d suggest limiting these challenges to state legislatures, governors, and attorneys general, and all congress critters, with the proviso that losing the defect lawsuit throws you out of office. And if the defect lawsuit succeeds, everyone who voted for it is similarly thrown out of office.

  4. Sixty-seven percent of Americans told Reason-Rupe they want members of Congress to “work together and compromise more, even if I do not like the resulting laws.”

    This is the most telling result from every poll I’ve seen this week. 67% believe principles just get in the way of sweet, sweet compromise.

    1. 67% believe principles just get in the way of sweet, sweet compromise.

      Libertarian moment is at hand!

    2. I don’t even understand this. They want compromise even if it results in laws they don’t like? That doesn’t even make sense. Why is that good? Why do they want that?

      1. Because, DO SOMETHING!

        1. Yeah, but why? This is one thing I just cannot wrap my head around, maybe because I do not suffer from it at all. Have people always been like this?

          1. Have people always been like this?

            How do you steer a successful start-up when you don’t understand humanity?

            1. I’m not the CEO, dumbass, I’m the talent. I would hate running this place.

          2. If you’re a centrist, and you believe government mostly does the right thing, and you’ve never given any real thought to the issue at hand, then doing something feels better than doing nothing. If you believe they’re a good person, and that new laws only affect bad people, then ANY new law means your life goes on normally while bad people get fines or go to jail.

            1. Oops. Make that, “If you believe YOU’RE a good person…”

      2. Why is that good?



      3. It’s their sense of fair play. Holding out to get your way is unseemly, unless you’re bargaining with a car salesman.

    3. Whose definition of compromise are we talking here, the real one, or the gun banner’s definition?

      1. Yeah “reasonable” compromise…

        In other words, I’ll take only part of what I am demanding from you, and you get nothing.

        1. Many years ago, my then three year old daughter said: “My compromise is we do it my way because I am right and you are wrong.”

        2. Thats’ exactly right.

          “Compromise” always means moving the needle toward greater government power and control.

          It never means moving it in the other direction.

          Leftists propose sweeping new expansions of government power and if one doesn’t accept the premise that the expansion is proper at all, then he gets accused of not wanting to “compromise”.

        3. Start unreasonable and settle on the place you wanted to be. Oldest tactic in the book.

          1. “Your initial offer is unreasonable, and has been discarded. We are pursuing other opportunities.”

    4. This is a manifestation of the cognitive dissonance George Will was talking about in his video.

    5. Compromise is nice. It’s nice to be nice, and it’s mean to be mean. Don’t think; just feel.

  5. Who the fuck are these 34% and how fast can we get them their own island?

  6. I propose a constitutional amendment. For the next 50 years, for every new law congress passes, they must repeal three.

    I could be talked into 150 years, or repeal 10 laws…or both.

  7. You Know in Which Other Country did the population think the government sucked and some TOP MAN was needed to get stuff done?

    1. Cuba?

    2. NIMH?

    3. The Galactic Republic?

      Didn’t this question get asked, like, two days ago or something?

  8. Who is this ‘Emily Ekins’? Never heard of her…

    1. Emily is teh hotness.

      1. Whoops, you knocked your sarc meter out of alignment there…

  9. I like the laws that are passed when Congress is in recess. Then we could go with Executive Directives or whatever they are called. Wouldn’t that be fun?

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