Was this the least productive Congress ever?

The dome of the US Capitol is seen March 19, 2014 in Washington, DC.

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

When the Senate cast its last vote Tuesday night and lawmakers headed back to their districts, the 113th Congress officially came to a close. And the Senate, at least, had the proud distinction of recording an increase in the number of votes lawmakers took - up from 486 in the 112th Congress to 657 in the 113th, according to records compiled by C-SPAN.

Were they more productive in the last two years than the group of lawmakers in office in 2011 and 2012? Not so fast, senators of the 113th.

Yes, they voted more frequently than their predecessors. But as far as overall measures that passed after a role call vote, that number actually declined - from 36 in the 112th Congress to 25 in the 113th.

The increase came in the number of procedural votes to end debate, called "cloture" votes (up to 215 from 73), and votes to confirm judicial and executive branch nominees, which jumped from 82 to 188. Those votes sharply increased this year after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, found Republicans consistently blocking his attempts to confirm the president's nominees and ultimately led Democrats to change the rules so it would be easier to do so.

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As a result, the Senate was able to confirm a whopping 188 nominees, compared to just 82 in the last Congress. Now, Republicans - who protested the rules change - are considering whether to change them back.

The number of amendments rejected (frequently put forth by a senator from the minority party) also dropped from 136 in the 112th Congress to just 73 in the 113th.

Robert Browning, a Perdue University political science professor who also maintains C-SPAN's archives, said that decline in rejection doesn't mean that the minority was more successful. Rather, it means that Republicans may not have been entirely wrong to complain that Reid maintained an iron grip over the Senate and never let them have the chance to amend bills. If McConnell allows a more open amendment process, as he has pledged to do, the number of rejected amendments will likely rise in the next Congress, Browning said.

The House, on the other hand, did manage to pass more legislation in the 113th Congress - 138 bills - than in the 112th Congress, when they passed only 124.

The list of House-passed bills includes appropriations measures, attempts to repeal or amend the Affordable Care Act, spending bills, measures to force the president to approve the Keystone Pipeline, and more. Many of those died at the Senate's doorstep.

The Senate's list of accomplishments also includes plenty of legislation related to keeping the government open, though they also passed a major immigration overhaul in June 2013 and a bill to reauthorize the 1994 Violence Against Women Act.

Browning would still rate the 113th Congress the least productive of recent legislative sessions, mostly because of the frequent clashes between the House and the Senate. The Senate passed no appropriations bills, the government was funded entirely through short-term spending measures and "the bodies are at a stalemate on important legislation," he said.

Both chambers did manage to pass a bill to prevent a government shutdown before leaving town, but some priorities were left untouched. Chief among those is the terrorism risk insurance program, which was established after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It requires insurers to offer coverage in the event of a terror attack, but ensures the federal government will help cover the losses if they exceed a certain dollar figure, and it expires at the end of the year.

Late last week, congressional negotiators came close to an agreement to renew the program for six years, while raising the threshold for government assistance from $100 million to $200 million. But at the last minute, an objection from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, tanked the bill and Senate lawmakers went home without renewing it.

Approximately 60 percent of businesses in the U.S. hold such insurance, and many banks require developers, especially those who build in urban areas, to get terrorism coverage before they will loan them money. Projects that are set to begin construction in January could be put on hold if insurers no longer have a guaranteed federal government backstop.

"If it isn't handled quickly by Congress that will become probably the norm rather than the exception," former Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, who is now the CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, told CBS News. "You won't see all the big cranes come down in Manhattan as a result of it right away, you just won't see a lot more growing up. There will be an impact."

Marty DePoy, the spokesman for the Coalition to Insure Against Terrorism, similarly warned that business "will be left vulnerable" and cannot budget, plan new projects or hire new employees because of the uncertainty about when the coverage would be restored.

Before the 9/11 attacks, terrorism insurance was lumped into most commercial policies at minimal cost. The attacks changed everything, incurring more than $30 billion in losses including insurance claims. Afterwards, insurers exempted acts of terrorism from their policies, and this froze development, since many states require terrorism insurance. NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, estimates that more than $15 billion in construction projects were delayed or cancelled and 300,000 jobs were lost in 2002 because insurers were unwilling to provide terrorism coverage, except at a very high premium.

Congress has also not yet moved to formally authorize the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a step many lawmakers say should happen, even though it has been three months since the United States assembled a large international coalition against the group. There's also been no resolution on tax reform, immigration, or reforms to police gear, an issue that came to light after people protesting the death of Michael Brown were confronted by law enforcement decked out in military gear.

Despite the showdowns that marked the 113th Congress - including the first government shutdown since 1996 - the year ended on a relatively quiet note. The Senate's last move of 2014 was to confirm Stephen Bough to be a U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Missouri. The House's final move was to expand the John Muir National Historic Site in California.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.