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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

The online far right is moving underground

Data: Apptopia; Chart: Axios Visuals

The online purge of far-right figures and platforms that followed last week's Capitol insurrection looks to be driving radicalized users into darker corners of the internet.

What's happening: Downloads have surged for messaging apps that are securely encrypted or designed to cater specifically to the ultra-conservative user.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden readies massive shifts in policy for his first days in office.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.
  6. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dave Lawler, author of World
3 hours ago - World

Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny and his wife shortly before he was detained. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.