Friday, March 29, 2013

The dog ate my legislation

Jonathan Bernstein at the Washington Post cites David Farenthold:
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) was assigned to write legislation that would cut $380 million in loan guarantees to clean-energy companies. But nothing happened with that idea, because Kelly never wrote a bill. He got distracted.

“It was a priority, and it remains an issue of interest. But Mike’s efforts shifted when he chose to focus more on holding the administration accountable with regards to [Operation] Fast and Furious. And then when the Benghazi tragedy occurred, that took the cake,” said Kelly’s spokesman, Tom Qualtere.

The truth is that the House of Representatives right now appears to be both incapable of legislating and not very interested in it, either. Thus the Boehner Rule that the Senate needs to go first; thus the fact that it’s the Senate, not the House, hard at work on both immigration and gun bills; thus the dozens of votes on repealing Obamacare but hardly any actual legislation with any chance of becoming law.
That’s from a nice article by David A. Fahrenthold about the fizzling of budget-cutting efforts by Barack Obama and by House Republicans. The Obama portion is interesting, but when it gets to the House Republicans, it rapidly becomes farce. Basically, the Republicans came up with a nice gimmick but had no interest at all in legislative follow-through.
Couldn’t write a bill because he was distracted by Fast and Furious and Benghazi? Why not just say that his computer was down or that a dog ate his homework? At least those cliched excuses don’t imply what is really going on here: Republican politicians who believed that the job of a member of Congress is to be outraged, and once they’ve done that, they can pretty much go home.
Which, as I was getting at yesterday, is the whole story of the Boehner-era House Republicans. Their big bill from the last Congress was to be repeal-and-replace, yet they never even held hearings to develop a bill to replace the Affordable Care Act. They do pass (nonbinding and unusually vague) budget resolutions, but there’s never any legislation to implement those resolutions. Last week was the third time in three years that House Republicans voted to replace Medicare with a new scheme, but they don’t even pretend that there will ever be an actual bill to carry out that plan. Now, it’s comprehensive tax reform that is supposedly their agenda. We’ll see … or, as I’m predicting, we won’t see.

My initial reaction was to say, "worse than I thought" in a comment on Facebook. But thinking about it the next day, I realize that many legislatures in many countries are effectively dysfunctional. The process of getting elected and reelected takes over and crowds out any commitment or desire to consider policy and legislative initiatives.

John Keane and thousands of others have made the point that elections by themselves are not democracy. Legislatures by themselves are not democracy. Keane his made a point in his Life and Death of Democracy that our leading institutions are 19th century attempts at implementation at the best. Perhaps we need something better; and not just a better stage for people to posture on.

Image: Some British politician.  Who knows, he may be a hard-working legislator.

1 comment: