The Brookings Institute has released scores ranking how effective members of Congress were in 2013. And by "effective" they mean how effective congresspersons were at getting their proposed legislation through committee, a major hurdle in the legislative process. What they find may surprise you.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was the most efficient Senator, which means Cruz got the highest percentage of his proposed bills through committee (7 out of 8). Compare this to Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) who proposed 61 pieces of legislation and literally none of them made it through committee.
Using another metric to define productivity, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) had the highest number of their bills make it through committee, 13 and 11 respectively. Thinking about this another way for instance, Rand Paul was 4x as effective at getting bills through committee than the average Senator would be expected to.
It may surprise some that Paul and Cruz, two senators dubbed tea party "wacko birds" could be so effective in getting their legislation through committee. It demonstrates that while these Senators are often defined by their willingness to take ideological stances on issues, albeit different stances at times, they are also willing to engage with the actual political process in efforts to make changes.
Here are some examples of what Rand Paul has gotten through committee:
The Fourth Amendment Restoration Act is an effort to prevent US government agencies from searching Americans' phone records without a warrant based on probable cause.
The National Right-to-Work Act, would repeal existing law in efforts to reduce the use of coerced union membership as a condition of employment.
The Separation of Powers Restoration and Second Amendment Protection Act essentially tells the President that Congress will not accept any executive orders, signing statements, or expenditures of federal funds on projects or programs not appropriated to the executive branch.
The Default Protection Act outlines priorities for federal government obligations if the debt limit is reached, including paying the interest and principal on public debt, paying benefits to members of the Armed Forces, and paying Social Security and Medicare.
Aside from getting bills through committee, examining simply the number of bills proposed, Democratic senators and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took 9 of the 10 top slots, while Vitter, the lone Republican, was first in proposing the highest number of bills. (In the Republican-controlled house, Democrats also took a higher share of the top slots with 7 of the top 10 bill proposers compared to 3 in 10 being Republicans.)