Monday, July 20, 2009

Five Committees, Two Houses, One Bill

All that old-fashioned "How A Bill Becomes A Law" stuff from elementary school had taught me that a bill had to make it through committee in both houses of Congress to become a law. What I didn't know until this year is that health care reform will have to make it through five committees -- three in the House and two in the Senate. It's quite the obstacle course, but I'm impressed at how well we're doing so far. The three House committees have agreed on legislation, as has the HELP committee. We're still waiting on Finance.

A lot of my favorite bloggers complain about the undemocratic nature of the US Senate. It radically underrepresents people from populated states, and allows a minority of 40 Senators to obstruct legislation. These complaints are entirely justified, and the Senate is in fact looking like the tightest bottleneck in passing legislation. But it's hard to see how we can take down an institution that can only be eliminated by a Constitutional amendment that it would have to pass with a 2/3 supermajority of its own members. Reforms in committee structure will at least have support from Speaker and Majority leader types, however much committee chairs will oppose them. As a way to unclog our ridiculously bottlenecky political system, I'd suggest that as a way to start.
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