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Congress is More Bipartisan Than You Think!

For every headline about partisan infighting in Washington, DC, a host of other bipartisan things happen, something I know you’ll be surprised to hear. For example, today House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler subpoenaed two Trump administration officials. Most Democrats love it. Most Republicans hate it. Members of Congress are saying disparaging things about each other as I type. Obviously, no one can get anything done because everyone hates each other, right?

Well, did you know that yesterday the House passed seven bills on a bipartisan, unanimous basis? And two of them were introduced by Republicans? None of them were about Post Offices and one of them was even about refugees!

Yeah, I bet you didn’t know that. Yet this kind of stuff happens every. single. day.

In fact, I did the policy wonk thing and delved a little further into how this has played out in the 116th Congress. What I found surprised me! The vast majority of bills passed through the House of Representatives (now considered the epicenter of partisan bickering) were bipartisan.

How does that work? I’m glad you asked. Generally speaking, legislation passes the House of Representatives in one of two ways, either a roll call vote (where members go to the House floor and register “yay,” “nay", or “present”) or a voice vote, where everyone agrees that the bill should pass and there’s no need to ask everyone what they think. (Yes, policy dorks, there are a few other very rare ways. Let’s focus on the big picture, shall we?)

So far this Congress, 142 bills have passed the House of Representatives in one of these two ways. I researched those bills through the Congressional Research Service website (www.congress.gov) and found the following:

  • Of the 64 House roll call votes on final passage, 85% passed on a bipartisan basis (which I defined as more than 40 Republicans voting for the bill)

  • Of the 142 bills that passed, 38 were sponsored by Republicans

  • Of the 142 bills that passed, 78 (more than 1/2) passed on a voice vote

Looking at all of those numbers together that means that approximately 93% of the bills passed through the House in the last six months were supported by both Democrats and Republicans—and sometimes unanimously.

Are there different ways to look at it? Sure. There are a lot of roll call votes on other things like a motion to recommit or what’s known as a “rule” for considering a bill. And many of those votes were along party lines. But in terms of what bills have achieved final passage on the House floor—what you see above is how it is..

These bills are designed to prevent child abuse, encourage transparency in intercountry adoption, help veterans, improve medicaid services, and about a hundred other things. Only five were about Post Offices! Sure, these bills haven’t become law. As you’ll remember from Schoolhouse Rock, they still have a long journey. Maybe they won’t see the end. But they got through the rough and tumble House of Representatives—and that’s an impressive and critical step. Better yet, they’re supported by both sides.

See? We can be friends (sort of).

Stephanie Vance