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Data: Quorum; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

"Twitter replaced floor debates in 2020," public affairs software firm Quorum writes in a new report, previewed by Axios, showing the 116th Congress as the least productive since the 1970s.

The big picture: Skyrocketing social media engagement and prolific numbers of bills filed that never went anywhere belie what happens when an increasingly divided and uncompromising Congress collides with an election-year pandemic.

By the numbers: Congress enacted 28 pieces of legislation that were introduced this year, according Quorum's report. That's far fewer than in any other year since it started tracking the data in 1990.

  • At the same time, Quorum found the highest volume of legislation introduced in an election year since 2000. Election years have lower legislative output, as representatives turn their focus from governing to campaigning.
  • There's still some time for Congress to pass bills, but even an effective and efficient final few weeks will leave 2020 well below previous lows.
  • The 116th Congress (2019 and 2020 combined) will be the least productive since at least the 1970s — the earliest year for which data is available.

Between the lines: Periods of divided government can be expected to yield fewer results. But never have things been less productive than in recent years.

  • Simultaneously, social media use among members of Congress skyrocketed, making for a Washington that's high on noise and low on results.
  • Members posted to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube 785k times this year, compared to 593k in 2018 and 290k in 2016, according to Quorum data.
  • Twitter saw the most use of the platforms — there were more than twice as many tweets as Facebook posts.
  • "With nearly 13% of tweets directly referencing #COVID19 or #coronavirus, social media became an even more critical platform for reaching constituents with other traditional platforms altered by social distancing."

President Trump posted more to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube than any member of Congress this year.

  • Ted Cruz (R-Texas) posted the most to social media of anyone in the Senate, while Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) was the most prolific in the House, the report found.

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Technology

Big Tech is outsourcing its hardest content moderation decisions

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Faced with the increasingly daunting task of consistent content moderation at scale, Big Tech companies are tossing their hardest decisions to outsiders, hoping to deflect some of the pressure they face for how they govern their platforms.

Why it matters: Every policy change, enforcement action or lack thereof prompts accusations that platforms like Facebook and Twitter are making politically motivated decisions to either be too lax or too harsh. Ceding responsibility to others outside the company may be the future of content moderation if it works.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."