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Which lawmakers were most effective in last Congress? Nonpartisan center ranks them

Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.), and Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) top their respective lists of most effective lawmakers during the last Congress, according to a new report from the nonpartisan Center for Effective Lawmaking (CEL).

Connolly earned a 7.142 Legislative Effectiveness Score (LES), which CEL bases on how far a lawmaker’s bills get through the lawmaking process and how substantial their proposals are, among other metrics. His score was more than seven times the score of the average House lawmaker in the 117th Congress, according to the CEL report. The Virginia Democrat sponsored 51 bills, while the average House lawmaker sponsored only 21 bills, the research found.

Eleven of Connolly’s sponsored bills cleared the lower chamber, and three ultimately became law, according to the report; on average, only one law was produced for every two House members.

Connolly said in a statement that he was “incredibly proud and honored” by the CEL distinction.

Bacon earned a 6.137 LES by introducing 50 bills in the last Congress, with two of them clearing the House and one becoming law. The report also identified 16 bills Bacon introduced that later “had their language substantially incorporated into other bills that ultimately became law.”

In the Senate, Peters earned a 6.725 LES. He introduced 102 bills during the last Congress, 30 of which cleared the upper chamber and 19 of which became law, according to the report. In the prior 116th Congress, Peters “had the rare distinction of being the overall most effective lawmaker in the Senate, despite Democrats being the minority party.”

CEL highlighted that Peters “had at least one Republican cosponsor on each of his successful bills” except one, which the researchers said “aligns well” with evidence that bipartisan lawmakers see more success than partisan ones.

Cornyn boasted the top score among Senate Republicans, with a 4.487 LES. Like Peters, he put forward 102 bills; 23 passed the Senate, 15 of which became law, according to CEL. 

Though Connolly received the highest score across both parties and chambers, and though the two top Democrats earned higher scores than their Republican counterparts, CEL notes it does not rank the parties together “given the strong benefit from being in the majority party.”

The Center for Effective Lawmaking is a partnership between the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University.