WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) bristled at a suggestion on Thursday that Congress has been "historically unproductive."
"That's just total nonsense," he told reporters at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "Now listen, we made clear when we took over, that we weren't going to be doing commemorative legislation on the floor. A lot of changes. In addition to that, most Americans think we have too many laws. And what they want us to do is repeal more of those. So I reject the premise to the question."
If the measurement of productivity is passing as few bills as possible, then yes, the last Congress was indeed the most productive ever.
But under the more traditional measurement of how many bills Congress passed and how many were signed into law by the president, it actually was the least productive since at least the 1940s.
And even repealing laws, which is what Boehner says the American public wants, would require Congress to pass new bills.
In the 112th session, Boehner's chamber passed 561 bills, which was the lowest number since record-keeping began in the 1940s. The Senate passed 364, which was the second-lowest number on record. Taken together, however, they amounted to the least productive record in modern history.
The number of bills that then became law was also the lowest. The 112th Congress even did less than the 80th Congress (1947-1948), which President Harry Truman infamously dubbed the "Do-Nothing Congress."
At least 40 bills concerned the renaming of post offices or other public buildings. Another six dealt with commemorative coins.
The current Congress is shaping up to have a similar track record. As of July 8, it had passed just 15 bills, the fewest in recent history by this point in the year.