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Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Fun on Capitol Hill

By Steven Taylor @ 11:22 am

Kevin Drum is correct: complex and messy legislation is nothing new. Indeed, anyone who has studied the legislative process even a little bit should know that it is unlikely that it would produce anything other than complex and messy outcomes.

So, those who argue that legislation recently passed, such as Medicare reform, or “No Child Left Behind” or whatever, are either unusually bad or part of some sort of Bush-administration plan (I have read such arguments), really haven’t been paying much attention to Congress for the past two centuries plus.

Let’s face facts: the system encourages deal-making and compromise, involves the need to get at least 51 members of the Senate (or 50 plus the Veep), and 218 members of the House to agree on whatever is on the table (and as I tell my students, try getting 5 friends to agree on where to eat and what movie to see, let along hundreds of politicians to agree on tax policy), and is dominated by multiple competing interests.

Not to mention that the preponderance of legislators are lawyers by training. If that doesn’t explain the lack of readability of legislation, I don’t know what would.

In short: legislating is messy, and legislation, therefore is rarely sublime.

Filed under: US Politics
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  • Priorities & Frivolities linked with Slip and Conquer?

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1 Comment»

  1. I am surprised that there has never been a movement to reform legislative procedures making it more difficult to write omnibus legislation. Obviously, politicians would not favor it, but I certainly don’t hear anything about this in the grassroots. When I proposed this several months ago, some folks *cough*Joyner*cough* said something like it wouldn’t be constitutional, though I’m not sure that is true - Congress can create any procedures it wants for passing legislation so long as it conforms to the majority and supermajority provisions in the Constitution.

    And after the SCOTUS ruling on McCain-Feingold, what the hell do we need a constitution for anyways?!

    I would favor a movement advocating that all provisions within a bill address one specific issue and that a bipartisan committee or forum would determine whether legislation met those conditions. Of course this would slow down legislation (a good thing), and pols could probably manipulate it to some degree (a bad thing), but I think it would tend to limit some pork and force legislatures to make difficult choices on specific issues.

    Comment by John Lemon — Tuesday, December 30, 2003 @ 5:39 pm

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