How Much Paper Congressional Bills Produce, Charted

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images
Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images / Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

In the modern era, the U.S. Congress is more famous for inaction than anything else. So just what do they do all day? Generate paper, for one. A resume template site called Hloom looked at the length of Congressional bills in a given two-year session, finding that the nation’s Senators and Representatives are introducing way more legislation than they’re probably reading.

See for yourself:

You might note that it would take 229 workdays for a single person to read every page of legislation produced, but in 2016, Congress is only in session for 111 days (a small number even for recent years). Legislative calendar aside, not every member of Congress reads every bill front to back. They have aides to do that, for one thing, and are more likely to skim for the parts they care about most or that most relate to the committee they sit on.

Budget and spending bills can run more than 1000 pages long, though much legislation is quite a bit shorter. As Slate noted in 2009, Congress has seen longer and longer bills over the last half-century, but that’s probably not a good thing. Bills get bloated when Congress is highly divided, because opposing legislators add amendments to try to block the bill from passing, and the party introducing the bill usually grabs at the chance to pack extra provisions in that might otherwise never make it to the floor.

That bill Mitch McConnell is hovering over in the photo at the top of the page is the Senate’s version of the health care reform bill that became the Affordable Care Act. The ACA came in at 2700 pages, a length that Justice Antonin Scalia famously complained about having to read when the law came before the Supreme Court.

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