:: 10.07.2004 ::
The ways of Washington
In September I posted ten Senate bills or resolutions introduced by Senator Kerry in 2003, none of which made it onto the Senate floor for a vote. Why? All ten were stalled in committee. The committees now have complete control over Congress, and since the majority rules the committees, well, there ya go. Congress did not always function this way, as recounted in this Boston Globe story:
The Accenture episode is emblematic of the way business is conducted in the 108th Congress, where a Republican leadership has sidelined legislation unwanted by the Bush administration, even when a majority of the House seemed ready to approve it, according to lawmakers, lobbyists, and an analysis of House activities. With one party controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress, and having little fear of retaliation by the opposing party, the House leadership is changing the way laws are made in America, favoring secrecy and speed over open debate and negotiation. Longstanding rules and practices are ignored. Committees more often meet in secret. Members are less able to make changes to legislation on the House floor. Bills come up for votes so quickly that elected officials frequently don't know what's in them. [Hm. Could this be what happened with the Patriot Act? - Deb] And there is less time to discuss proposed laws before they come up for a vote.
Thanks to Mom for the link!
"There is no legislative process anymore," said Fred Wertheimer, the legendary open-government activist who has been monitoring Congress since 1963. "Bills are decided in advance of going to the floor."
....longtime Congress-watchers say they have never seen the legislative process so closed to input from minority-party members, the public, and lobbyists whose agenda is unsympathetic to GOP leadership goals.
In fact, that is exactly how the Patriot Act got passed with so few Congressmen knowing what was in it:
The USA PATRIOT Act, too, underwent a Rules Committee remake in 2001. Urged on by the Bush administration, Republicans and Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee engaged in painstaking negotiations to write compromise language they believed gave law enforcement the tools it needed to fight terrorism while protecting the civil liberties of US citizens. The measure passed 36-0 in committee, drawing the support of such disparate political voices as Representatives Barney Frank, Democrat of Newton, and James Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin.
Why haven't we heard more about this?
But after Attorney General John Ashcroft complained that the measure didn't give law enforcement enough new authority, the Rules Committee heavily rewrote the bill and presented to the House a new version greatly expanding the government's power to search people's homes without notice. The House spent just one day debating the matter before approving the historic expansion of search-and-seizure rules.
:: Deb 4:29 PM :: permalink ::
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