Tuesday, June 10, 2014

legislative constipation

Dana Milbank calls out the House Republican leadership for a record number of closed rules on bills coming before the House. He also notes that this tactic was used extensively by House Democrats when theywere last in the majority. A closed rule forbids debating or voting on any amendment not previously endorsed by the majority-dominated Rules Committee.

Of  course, "everybody does it" isn't really an excuse.

A similar tactic has been used in the Senate under both Democratic and Republican control. It's called filling the amendment tree and blocks consideration of amendments opposed by the majority leader. Senate Republicans claim their increased use of the filibuster was in response to being denied opportunities to bring up their amendments.

What amendments are we missing?  Sad to say, most are probably "poison pill" measures designed to embarrass opponents and lay the groundwork for TV ads proclaiming that the incumbent supports sex pills for prisoners or favors tax increases for indigent veterans or some such. A few of the amendments are alternative public policies on which reasonable people can disagree, like how  much to tax multinational corporations or how to pay for disaster relief. But most of them are campaign weapons rather than better laws for better government.

I'm in favor of more open rules and fewer filled amendment trees, despite the mischief that allows.I think politicians are exaggerating the impact of ads based on misleading accounts of single votes. I could be wrong, but we need to clear these blockages if we're ever going to have responsible legislatin.

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