Further to Andy’s excellent column and his note below: the question of which house ought to have responsibility for “money bills” (which we batted around in these parts a few days back) is not a highfalutin abstraction but directly relevant to why federal budgeting is so out of control and America is at a uniquely disastrous level of brokeness compared with other countries.
The point of bicameral legislatures is that each chamber is supposed to represent a different balance of interests and enjoy a different emphasis of responsibilities. In the US, the former was pretty much obliterated by the Seventeenth Amendment. The latter survives in the Senate’s exclusive right to confirm judicial and cabinet appointments. Imagine what it would be like if both houses got to pick a judge and it then went to “conference” to negotiate. That’s essentially how the budget works, and it leads all too predictably to horsetrading and mutually beneficial porking up. It’s a feature of the system that up is the only way to go.
So I’m for fewer “conferences” and more clearly delineated responsibilities. As New Hampshire’s next senator, I will fight for this important principle.
I also agree with Andy on soi-disant “mandatory” spending — on the bedrock principle that in any truly self-governing society a parliament cannot bind its successor. It is revolting that the people’s representatives accept so meekly that two-thirds of the US budget is beyond their purview.