Only thing remarkable is how utterly unremarkable and familiar it has becomeRead More
This week’s rush by Republicans to pass tax reform reveals the limits of majority rule in the Senate.
Early in the year, Republicans decided to use the special budget process known as reconciliation to pass their tax bill in anticipation of Democratic obstruction. They did so because reconciliation bills cannot be filibustered. The support of a simple majority of senators is all that’s needed to overcome any effort to delay an up-or-down vote on final passage.
This feature of the reconciliation process is the most well-known, given the tendency common today to view Senate dysfunction solely through the lens of minority obstruction. From this perspective, reconciliation offers the majority party a way to pass its agenda over the objections of the minority party.
But this is a simplistic view of the legislative dynamics inherent in reconciliation. It overlooks other features of the process that complicate the majority’s efforts to pass tax reform and exacerbate the Senate’s underlying problems.Read More
The way Republican leaders corralled the votes previously left them unable to oppose the president’s agreement to suspend the debt ceiling and fund the government for three months.Read More
Congress is running out of time to fund the federal government for the upcoming fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
In July, the House of Representatives passed four appropriations bills bundled together in a so-called minibus. But senators chose to leave town for their August recess rather than take up that spending package.
And there won’t be much time to do so when they return in September. The Senate is currently scheduled to be in session for only 17 days next month. The House and Senate will be on the job at the same time for only 12 of those days.
That doesn’t leave a lot of time for the Senate to take up and debate the House-passed minibus, much less the other eight appropriation bills that have yet to be considered by the full House or Senate. A short-term continuing resolution to keep the government open while Congress finishes its work appears inevitable.Read More
Changing a reconciliation bill in the Senate is harder than you think. And the reason why has nothing to do with healthcare policy.
While senators are correct to note they have a "virtually unlimited opportunity" to offer amendments to reconciliation bills, the special rules governing that process make it less likely that alternative proposals will receive serious consideration on the floor. Given this, senators should not be quick to assume that beginning debate on the healthcare bill this week will lead to a different outcome if their amendments are not allowed to be debated openly and do not receive up-or-down votes on the merits. Ensuring this requires senators to know exactly what it is that they are amending.Read More
Congress has a problem. The federal budget is a mess, and its members have yet to demonstrate the willingness to fix it.
This is a problem because it's their job to budget.
Budgeting requires trade-offs between appropriate levels of taxes and spending. It also forces members to prioritize some programs over others. Doing so is controversial. Some people will be unhappy with the decisions their elected representatives make.
And therein lies the problem.Read More