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Frequency Distribution of Cosponsorship in the House through 2/8/09

Bills in the House, 111th Congress, February 2009: How Many Cosponsors?For some time now, the writers of Irregular Times have been following the doings in the United States Congress with the kind of fascination that one sees in the occasional rubbernecker on the highway who actually stops to get a closer look at the carnage. We’re obsessed enough that we’ve branched out, in a manner of speaking, with a website called That’s My Congress. We continue to speak out about legislation here, of course, but That’s My Congress is where we concentrate congressional talk, and house our House and Senate legislative scorecards too.

Coming new and fresh this year will be periodic reports that try to characterize the activity of the Congress in a timely fashion, as it happens. Right now, we’re working on our first of a series of publications on patterns of cosponsorship by members of the 111th Congress. Cosponsorship is an act by a Senator or Representative who signs his or her name to a bill to formally indicate support for it. Here’s a sneak peek for you from our upcoming report…a frequency distribution of bill cosponsorship by members of the House of Representatives.

The x-axis in this graph represents the number of cosponsors garnered by a bill, and the y-axis represents a frequency: the number of bills garnering that number of cosponsors. Because spontaneous generation is not a driving force in politics, every bill must have a principal sponsor, but not every bill has a cosponsor. Indeed, the modal category in the House of Representatives so far is that of bills without any cosponsors. At this admittedly early point in the 111th Congress, 375 bills in the House have no cosponsors, and a further 115 bills have just one cosponsor. The frequency distribution drops off pretty quickly from there, with only a handful of bills gaining more than a hundred cosponsors.

Will the pattern change as the 111th Congress proceeds? What explains the variation in the level of cosponsorship from bill to bill? What sort of Representative or Senator cosponsors a lot or a little? Which members of Congress are inactive on this count? Who cosponsors together? These are some of the questions we’ll be getting our fingers wrapped around; look for our first full report to come out soon.

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