Dec 11, 2016
In less than a month, 56 freshmen will take office in the U.S. House of Representatives. After months of campaign rhetoric filled with new initiatives and policy ideas, Members will now set out to implement their agenda.
Don’t expect freshman Members to sponsor or enact many bills.
Freshman Representatives sponsored 8 bills on average compared to incumbent Representatives who sponsored 14 bills. In total, the 58 freshmen in the 114th House introduced 624 bills, which accounted for 9.7% of the total number of bills introduced. Only 149 of those bills made it out of committee and only 22 bills sponsored by freshman Representatives were enacted.
Freshman Representatives are unlikely to work across the aisle.
Quorum measures bipartisanship on a 1 to 10 scale comparing the frequency a Member cosponsors bills of the opposite party and the frequency with which Members of the opposite party cosponsor the given Member’s bills. Freshman Representatives over the past 14 Congresses have had an average bipartisan score of 3.9, whereas incumbent Representatives have had an average score of 4.6.
This isn’t because incumbents don’t reach across the aisle. New members are 4% less likely than incumbent Members to cosponsor opposite party bills. The only exception to this was the 101st congressional freshman class which cosponsored opposite party legislation 0.5% more than incumbents.
New Members receive less support for their sponsored legislation.
New members get an average of 14 cosponsors per bill, which is fewer than incumbent Members’ average of 18 cosponsors. Thirty percent of bills freshman Representatives introduce do not have cosponsors.
Though freshman Representatives are historically less effective and less bipartisan legislators, the Republican Party’s federal trifecta may change legislator behavior in the 115th Congress.