Ezra Klein on Procedural Reforms


Upgrading the often arcane procedural rules in the House and Senate (like rules limiting terms for committee chairs) could help get large and complicated bills like health care reform through Congress faster, but there’s a catch:

… Right now, health-care reform is stuck in a congressional process that is explicitly and aggressively biased against large pieces of legislation. That’s not only made the bill harder to pass, it’s also made the bill worse: reformers began with a modest approach because the political system can’t bear much in the way of change.And that’s true for any bill you might want to name. Climate bills. Social Security reforms. Tax policy. It’s true for bills pushed by Democrats as well as bills pushed by Republicans. Some of these rules could, over time, get changed. The filibuster originally required the commitment of one solitary senator. Today it requires 40. The House Rules committee used to use a Dixiecrat majority to kill all legislation. Then Kennedy and Rayburn fought to expand the committee and end its role as a cemetery for social change.

The problem, of course, is that changing procedural rules is hard to do, and no one really wants to expend political capital on arcane parliamentary battles. Presidents don’t take office promising to make it easier for future presidents to make a difference in the lives of voters. They take office promising to make a difference in the lives of voters. So there’s very rarely much appetite for huge fights over changes in congressional procedure.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Congress, Domestic Issues, Health Care, Politics

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