It is a well-established legislative rule–familiar to anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of civics–that once the House of Representatives passes a bill, and the bill goes to the Senate, and the Senate follows through by passing a bill that is different from the House version, a conference committee assembles to reconcile the two bills. If that is accomplished, the reconciled bill goes through both chambers of Congress once again, before being submitted to the President for either a signature, or a veto.
I find it very disconcerting that the majority party in Congress either doesn’t possess a rudimentary understanding of civics, or it doesn’t care about the rules and procedures governing the consideration and passage of legislation:
Despite their claims to the contrary, the way that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have handled the healthcare bill has been anything but transparent. And, if the left-wing blogosphere is to be believed, the two congressional leaders intend to keep the deliberations secret as they try to merge the House and Senate versions of the legislation into something that will pass both chambers.
The Talking Points Memo website reported Monday that Democrats in both the House and Senate are saying the process will likely follow the path of the House taking up the Senate-passed legislation, amending it and sending it back to the Senate, which will have to pass it again. “This process cuts out the Republicans,” a House Democratic aide told TPM, indicating the congressional majority intended to make sure the Republican minority would “not have a motion to recommit opportunity.”
It also, say those who are following the issue, allows Pelosi to avoid having to cut deals with problematic House Democrats like Michigan’s Bart Stupak, who has promised to do what he can to scuttle the final bill if it provides for federal funding of abortions.
Remember that when they won back control of Congress in 2006, Democrats pledged to run Congress, er, more democratically. It didn’t take long for Democrats to break that pledge, so I suppose that these latest efforts to subvert regular order should come as no surprise. But that does not, and should not prevent the rest of us from being appalled.
It is nice to see that some Democrats are objecting to this effort to railroad not just Republicans, but the entire institution of Congress. Alas, those Democrats appear to be in a minority. If this is what the majority party will resort to in order to pass a particular piece of legislation, then maybe it’s as good a sign as any–as we head to the upcoming midterm elections–that they shouldn’t be the majority party anymore.