The Corner

The not-very-democratic Congress

Members of the public usually find debates over congressional processes to be opaque, and therefore they carry with them little political interest. But this white paper by House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) contains some interesting information on the top-down handling of this year’s emergency supplemental:

House Democrats next week plan on bringing to the floor the 37th supplemental spending bill that Congress has considered in nearly 20 years. The glaring difference between this supplemental and the other 36, though, is that this will be the only controversial one brought to the floor without going through the House Appropriations Committee and without bi-partisan sign-off. The last supplemental considered under a Republican majority in 2006 saw floor votes on 27 Democratic amendments and 23 amendments by the Republicans. None of those supplementals shut out alternatives and opposition at every step of the way – in committee, on the floor, and in conference committee. That Speaker Pelosi has chosen to close Republicans out of the process may fit well with her penchant for power and fear of holding up her priorities to scrutiny. But what’s surprising is that those nearly 27 amendments offered by Democrats is 27 more than their own leadership is allowing them now. Is Speaker Pelosi attempting to pass this bill without a peep of opposition because it contains items so unambiguously offensive that they couldn’t even stand the scrutiny from her fellow Democrats?

I remember seeing plenty of news reports lamenting how Speaker Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) would only pass bills approved by “the majority of the majority.” The media have been much less critical about this when the Democrats do the same thing (with the FISA and immigration enforcement bills, for example). But this is worse than any of that. The House Democratic leadership is keeping their own people out of the lawmaking process. No amendments, no committees. Not exactly the “open, honest” Congress we were promised. 

Congress will probably end up voting on something that nearly doubles the president’s request of $108 billion, and which will probably contain several objectionable but politically attractive spending elements. How they think such a bill will survive the Senate or become law is unclear.

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