To generate the Legislative Effectiveness Score and related metrics, we rely on computer code to collect all relevant information from the Library of Congress website, www.congress.gov, for every public house bill (H.R.) and senate bill (S.) that was introduced into the 93rd – 117th Congresses (1973-2023). For every bill, we identify the sponsor and every step in the legislative process as identified in the “All Actions” section of the bill summary. After collecting this information, we code the dates and incidence of each major stage of each bill’s progression through the legislative life cycle, serving as the foundation for our metrics.
Legislative Effectiveness Scores
To calculate the Legislative Effectiveness Score for each member of the U.S. House and Senate, we draw on fifteen indicators that collectively capture the proven ability of a legislator to advance her agenda items through the legislative process and into law.
More specifically, to calculate Legislative Effectiveness Scores for the House, we identify the number of bills that each member of the House of Representatives sponsored (BILL); and the number of those bills that received any action in committee (AIC), or action beyond committee (ABC) on the floor of the House. For those bills that received any action beyond committee, we also identify how many of those bills subsequently passed the House (PASS), and how many became law (LAW).
We categorize all bills as being either commemorative (C), substantive (S), or substantive and significant (SS). Our categorization is based on the following coding protocol. A bill is deemed substantive and significant if it was introduced during the 93rd – 113th Congresses, and had been the subject of an end-of-the-year write-up in the Congressional Quarterly Almanac. For bills that were introduced into the 114th to 116th Congresses, a bill is deemed substantive and significant if it was mentioned on two or more occasions in the stories published in Congressional Quarterly Weekly/CQ Magazine during that Congress. For bills that were introduced into the 117th Congress and subsequent congresses, a bill is deemed substantive and significant if it was mentioned on two or more occasions in the stories published in Congressional Quarterly Weekly/CQ Magazine during that Congress, identified as the subject of a key vote by Project Vote Smart, and/or discussed in the Fact Sheets in the CQ House section of CQ.com.
A bill was deemed commemorative if it satisfied any one of several criteria, such as providing for a renaming, commemoration, private relief of an individual, and the like. Finally, all other bills, and any erstwhile “commemorative” bills that were also captured by the “substantive and significant” criteria (as detailed above) were classified as substantive. For each of these three categories of bills we relied on our five important stages of the legislative process (above) to produce our final set of fifteen indicators.
Having compiled fifteen indicators of effectiveness, we calculated a Legislative Effectiveness Score (LES), for each member i, in each Congress t, as follows:
where the five large terms represent the member’s fraction of bills (1) introduced, (2) receiving action in committee, (3) receiving action beyond committee, (4) passing the House, and (5) becoming law, relative to all N legislators. Within each of these five terms, commemorative bills are weighted by α = 1, substantive bills by β = 5, and substantive and significant by γ = 10. The overall weighting of N/5 normalizes the average LES to take a value of 1 in each Congress.
Beginning with the 117th Congress, the methodology that was used to calculate Representatives’ and Senators’ Legislative Effectiveness Scores was altered such that they now receive credit when a substantial portion of the language in their sponsored bills is incorporated into other legislators’ bills that become law. Such bill language is detected using 5-gram Jaccard similarity comparisons, coupled with criteria accounting for bill length, introduction dates, companion bills, and other idiosyncrasies of the contemporary lawmaking process in Congress. When a bill’s language is substantially included in another law, the bill’s sponsor receives credit for that bill receiving action beyond committee (ABC), passing its chamber of origin (PASS) and becoming law (LAW), even if the standalone sponsored bill did not advance through such stages. The correlation between Legislative Effectiveness Scores that account for legislators’ language being incorporated into other vehicles and Legislative Effectiveness Scores that are calculated using the original methodology are 0.89 for the 117th House.
We employ an identical methodology to calculate a Legislative Effectiveness Score for each member of the U.S. Senate; likewise, there is a 0.97 correlation between our two scores for the 117th Senate.
A Representative’s Benchmark Score is established by the following two step procedure:
First, for each Congress, we estimate an Ordinary Least Squares regression model where the dependent variable is Representative i’s LES, and the independent variables are Representative i’s Seniority, an indicator variable for whether she was a member of the majority party, and indicator variables for whether she held a committee and/or subcommittee chair. After estimating the regression coefficients that correspond to each of the independent variables, we generated linear predicted values for each Representative’s LES in the given Congress.
The predicted value is denoted as the Representative’s “Benchmark Score” that we refer to on the pages of this website. Having identified a Representative’s Benchmark Score, we denote a Representative’s Legislative Effectiveness Score as being “Above Expectations” if the ratio of her Legislative Effectiveness Score to her Benchmark Score is greater than 1.50. We denote a Representative’s Legislative Effectiveness Score as being “Below Expectations” if the ratio of her Legislative Effectiveness Score to her Benchmark Score is less than .50. Finally, we denote a Representative’s Legislative Effectiveness Score as “Meets Expectations” if the ratio of her Legislative Effectiveness Score to her Benchmark Score is between .50 and 1.50. We employ an identical methodology to calculate a Senator’s benchmark score.
Interest and Legislative Effectiveness Scores
To calculate the Interest and Legislative Effectiveness Score (ILES) for each issue area, we employ an identical analytical methodology to what was used to calculate a legislator’s LES, simply on the subset of bills within that issue area. To categorize each H.R. and S. bill into an issue area, we rely on two data sources. For bills that were introduced in the 93rd – 111th Congresses (1973-2010), we rely on the Congressional Bills Project, which categorizes each bill into one of 19 issue areas, as described by the Comparative Agendas Project. For bills that were introduced into the 112th and later Congresses, we rely on the policy area categorization that is employed by Congress.gov, assigning one of 32 broad policy area terms to each bill that is introduced into the United States House and Senate, where the terms are assigned by legislative analysts in the Congressional Research Service. In cases where there was obvious overlap between the Congressional Bills Project Codes and the Congress.gov codes, Congress.gov codes were combined into one issue area, such that we ultimately assign each bill that was introduced from the 112th Congress on into one of 21 issue areas.