Why does Congress reject more legislation than it passes? One of the primary functions of Congress is to pass legislation, but by its very nature, compromise and bipartisanship is necessary to achieve this. The process is complex and lengthy, with many hurdles and hoops presented by the constitution that it’s surprising that even more legislation doesn’t get rejected. Currently, only about 3-5% of the 10,000 annual bills make it through the legislative labyrinth and made into law. However, Congress was deliberately faced with a difficult legislative process.
First ills are read to Congress, more as Just a formality, as no vote or debate takes place. Then they are passed onto the Committees, which is the most important stage and where as Professor Vile stated, “bills go to die. ” They can become de-prioritized and pigeonholed for a later date. They are then passed to a timetabling session where it is decided what order bills will be considered in. Bills then pass on to a second reading, where members can debate the bill for the first time. A third reading follows as a final opportunity to debate the bill before it passes on to the conference ommittee, which is largely an optional stage.
This is only necessary if a bill emerges from both houses differently and needs to be reconciled. However, the process has been made more efficient with a mirroring of the English style of ping-ponging bills back and forth between houses to arrive at a compromise before this stage. In 1993 to 1994, one in every three bills had to be reconciled, where as it is only one in every ten in 2007 to 2008. Finally, the bill is passed on to the President who has three options- to sign the bill into law, to leave the bill on his desk to become law despite is signature in ten days, or to veto the bill.
In forcing bills to pass through multiple stages, a more thorough check is enforced. Bills undergo extreme scrutiny, especially in the Committee stage. When a bill is taken to a second reading, where it can face filibusters. This is when a member of Congress will attempt to outtalk a bill, preventing it from being passed. The longest filibuster to date was in 1957; Strom Thurmond spoke against the civil rights movement for 24 hours and 18 minutes. More recently, however, Ted Cruz spoke for 21 hours against the Affordable Healthcare Act for 21 hours on a range of topics, from ountry song lyrics to a reading of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr.
Seuss. Often, the executive and legislature can be split, such as the case now, which leads to an increasing dysfunction and difficulty in passing legislation in Congress. Congressional Quarterlys party unity score set a new record in 2011, with 75. 8% of votes pitting Democrats and Republicans against each other. This leads to gridlock and even, as seen in October 2013, a government shutdown. However, Larry Sabato, necessarily a bad thing. It limits government and party excesses. ” For example, Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus package was approved after Republican crutiny.
However, James Taranto in the Wall Street Journal argues that, “the American people are fed up with the political posturing of gridlock. ” Often the short, 2 year, house terms can be too limited of a time frame for much work to be done; instead, the time is used to make a name for oneself. Furthermore, it can often lead to compromise to get anything done. For example, Bush’s 2008 financial rescue package was pork-barreled with various irrelevant additions simply to ensure the survival of the bill. Compared to the United Kingdom system, the United States’ political landscape acks a clear or strong party whipping system.
Members of Congress hold more loyalty towards their home states than to their party, because it is the appeasement of the state that will ensure their careers. Also, along with the “folks back home” attitude, there is the influence of pressure groups on various members of Congress, more so than the pressure to vote along party lines. A President can try to combat this with the coattails effect, though this is only effective if a President is well liked. A Congress member endorsed by a well-liked President can ensure is re-election, at the price of toeing party lines.
However, the United States system prides itself on a strict separation of powers and does not suffer from the elective dictatorships such as Tony Blair in the United Kingdom, even the Presidential veto of a bill can be overturned by a two-thirds majority. However, these are difficult to achieve, but if they are, they can make a President look weak or incompetent. On some occasions, legislation can be passed quickly when it is necessary. The Patriot Act in 2001 became written into law relatively efficiently. However, a bill can also be discussed at great lengths and scrutinized on every level for a long period of time.
Congress rejects more bills than it passes because the politicians in America have become more polarized. The legislative process has remained largely the same throughout America’s history; however, the number of bills becoming law has declined. Congress has become less and less effective at passing legislation through the years; the 11 lth Congress passed only 383 bills, compared to 480 in its predecessor, and a staggering 906 bills in 1947’s “do nothing” Congress. More dispute between members of Congress and the Executive has led to increased gridlock and greater difficulty for Congress to achieve its already difficult to preform functions.