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It Can Take Years for a Lawmaker to Get a Bill Enacted

Candidates freely share ideas for bills they’d like to pass, but then reality sets in

Michigan Rep. Sander M. Levin, who entered Congress in 1983, waited 23 years before getting his first bill passed. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Michigan Rep. Sander M. Levin, who entered Congress in 1983, waited 23 years before getting his first bill passed. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Congressional candidates are crisscrossing the campaign trails with less than two months until the election, pitching voters their ideas for bills to pass. But those who make it to Washington will likely have a long wait before seeing their legislation become law.

Less than a third of the current members of the House had one of their bills signed into law in their first term. The Senate, with fewer members and generally more legislative experience, has a steeper learning curve. Only 12 of the current senators completed or went past their first term with a law to their name.

Of course, some members of Congress have bills enacted that don’t bear their names. For instance, smaller bills are sometimes incorporated into larger ones, such as a major appropriations measure, and are passed without any indication of the sponsors.

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