Strange Tales of Congressional Procedure

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"Strange Tales of Congressional Procedure"

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Continuing a theme from yesterday, I think it’s more important than is generally acknowledged that most people have no idea how congress works. Consider, for example, the following hypothetical scenario. The Green Team has 13 Senators on the Senate Energy Committee and the Brown Team has 10 Senators. The President also belongs to the Green Team and he promised in a speech to pass a bill banning the use of puppy-burning power plants. The Brown team hates that idea. Then along come two Senators from the Green Team who offer an amendment saying, well, as long as you don’t burn more than three puppies a year you can do it. Then the committee takes a vote and the amendment is adopted, 12-11, with the 11 “no” votes all coming from the Green Team. Then the overall puppy bill comes up for a vote and it passes 13-11 on a party-line vote.

What happens next? Well, typically what happens is you start getting liberals complaining that the Green Team voted for a weak-ass sellout bill. Unanimously. They have the majority, they control everything, and this is the best they could do? Why didn’t they really fight? Meanwhile, the Brown Team complains that it’s been shut out of the process and the Green Team is passing these costly bills that put the interests of puppies ahead of the interests of people and that doesn’t even really stop puppy-burning anyway!

Anyways, this kind of thing happens all the time. Things happen because a small fraction of centrist Democrats side with the vast majority of Republicans, but then the overall legislative vehicle ends up being moved on a party-line vote. This leads to people criticizing “the Democrats” for doing things that only a tiny minority of Democrats actually did, and Republicans run around acting like they have nothing to do with outcomes even though they’ve actually been decisive in shaping them.

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