WASHINGTON – Smarting from a dozen years under iron-fisted Republican rule, House Democrats promised to do things differently and open up the institution when they regained majority control in 2007.
One of the changes he instituted was to allow any legislator to offer amendments to massive spending bills once they were on the floor. Republicans took advantage of the opportunity and put forward scores of politically charged proposals for changes to a routine farm spending bill, bringing the debate to a virtual standstill. Democrats quickly reversed course and reinstated the amendment’s limits.
Now the new House Republican majority is proposing similar institutional changes as part of a rulemaking package Speaker Kevin McCarthy negotiated with hard-right rebels in exchange for support for his job, which is being considered on Monday. Have to go He pointed to the hasty approval in December of a bill that would cost nearly $1.7 trillion to fund the entire government as an example of back-room lawmaking at its worst.
“What this rules package is designed to do is what we saw literally 15 days ago, where the Democrats passed a $1.7 trillion bill that spent American taxpayers’ money in all kinds of crazy ways,” Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, said Sunday on Fox News. He said Republicans would need 72 hours to allow lawmakers to consider any bill.
But restoring any semblance of order and structure to considering spending bills and other measures will prove extremely difficult with conservative Republicans in charge of the House and Democrats controlling the Senate and the White House. More likely a prescription for new dynamic shutdowns and gridlocks. The roots of procrastination run deep.
Even lawmakers with long experience in trying to get Congress to do what’s called “routine order”—how a bill becomes law—getting legislation through the House and Senate and signed by the president civilian class version of.
“We have clearly found new levels of inefficiency in the last decade – a huge bill at the end of the year to fund the government, plus the four leaders of the House and Senate can agree to add to it,” Roy Blunt said. Said, the Republican senator from Missouri who retired this year after serving under the leadership of both the House and the Senate.
It was not always so. For most of its existence, Congress had a methodical approach to producing spending bills, which are the core of its mandate, its primary legislative responsibility as it exercised its formidable power of the purse. Expert subcommittees in the House and Senate will take detailed testimony from executive branch officials to determine what they need, draft separate measures for each area of government, and conduct line-by-line committee reviews of bills.
They will then take each bill to the floor of the House and Senate one by one in the spring and summer, resolve differences between the two chambers, and get them signed by the president before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. The government will not be interrupted. The lawmakers overseeing the appropriations subcommittees were called “cardinals”, indicating the extent of their power, and protecting their control over their areas of federal government. Expense panels were the venue for MPs who wanted to make an impact.
Election of the new Speaker of the House
Representative Kevin McCarthy won the presidency after a rebellion within the Republican Party set off a long stretch of failed ballots.
But those days seem far away, when bills were written with a pen. Some basic work still takes place as members of the appropriations panels — and, importantly, their staffers — assemble the bills, but the process is done with far less public review and transparency. And because it’s so difficult to move individual pieces of legislation through both chambers — filibusters are the rule, not the exception, in the Senate — measures are now almost always mashed together in huge packages.
Of 12 separate appropriations bills last year, only six were considered by the House, and none reached the Senate floor.
Instead, senior members of committees agreed among themselves what would be the “top line” spending numbers, worked on versions of individual bills and then negotiated with Senate and House leaders to get agreement on late final legislation. Of. December. Members faced a take it or leave it proposition as the year ended, with the threat of more time in Washington during the holidays and a Christmas government shutdown if they chose to leave. it. The leadership saw a few more bills as mix-pass items, including changes to the way the president’s electoral votes are counted.
House Republicans stayed out of the conspiracies, although Senate Republicans had a greater say because they needed to provide enough votes to pull off the filibuster. It was a textbook case of ugly legislation, and House Republicans vowed it would never happen again.
But there are explanations for why this happened, and one of them is increased partisanship in Congress. While there was always a dose of bipartisanship in the appropriations process – and the appropriators were treated almost as a party unto themselves – that aura has faded as deeper polarization has taken hold.
Now the bills themselves have become a target for political attacks once they reach the floor, with both parties restricting the opportunity for their members to propose amendments to save them from having to take a tough vote. The limits are broken, and Republicans are promising to lower them. But it would make legislative life difficult, as Democrats found.
“All you have is a filibuster by amendment,” said the Maryland Democrat and former majority leader, who is a veteran member of the Appropriations Committee. “You have 435 members, and 435 revisions in 10 minutes will take you a lot of time.”
Congress doesn’t like to spend that kind of time legislating. At best, lawmakers are in town three or four days a week, and much of that period is spent off the floor on fundraising and other political activities. The idea of toiling through revisions is anathema to many. In the Senate, arcane rules mean amendments can take longer to settle without the consent of all senators – and unanimity is rare to find.
The demise of earmarks to channel federal money to individual lawmakers’ favorite projects also contributed to making it more difficult to pass spending bills the old-fashioned way. Banned in 2011, earmarks could no longer provide grease for appropriations skids, and it became even more difficult to move bills separately. The earmarks made a comeback last year and were instrumental in providing votes for approval of the massive spending bill, especially among Republicans.
House Republicans are planning to make it more difficult to win earmarks. They intend to make it easier to cut spending and force offsets in spending elsewhere to offset the hike, a plan sure to face resistance from Democrats. And they want to pair any increase in the federal debt limit with a corresponding cut in federal spending, an approach that nearly caused an international economic disaster when Republicans installed a House majority and tried it in 2011.
“We will end wasteful Washington spending,” Mr. McCarthy promised in his victory speech after midnight on Saturday morning.
Democrats do not share the view of Mr. McCarthy and his allies on what constitutes wasteful federal spending. They already see conflicts, especially if Republicans pursue domestic cuts without corresponding cuts in military spending.
Senator Chuck Schumer, New York’s Democrat and majority leader, met Mr. McCarthy’s election with a warning that House Republicans “could cause a government shutdown or default with disastrous consequences for our country.”
Republicans are already talking about a spending freeze or running with automatic cuts to the government under a “continuing resolution” if lawmakers can’t find an agreement. It’s going to be a real struggle to find common ground. And although Mr Blunt was discouraged by the decline in the way Congress operates, he warned there was an even darker alternative.
He said in a farewell speech to his colleagues, “The thing that is worse than the way we do it is that we are not doing it.” “The only thing worse than the way we do it is to decide not to do our job and see what happens.”
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