The overarching demand is for “regular order.” which is congressional speak for how things are supposed to work — at least how things used to work. Their hopes are straight out of the old Schoolhouse Rock “I’m Just a Bill” anthem, where bills start in subcommittees and move to full committees and competing versions are passed by each chamber, leading to a conference committee to iron out the differences. A final version gets approved and sent to the president for his signature.
That process, already withering away over the last decade, broke down completely in the 112th Congress. Senior aides could not point to a single significant bill introduced in the past two years that moved along those old procedural tracks. The Senate, intended as the more prudent, less fractious house, set a modern record for futility in 2011 and 2012 by holding just 486 votes — about 175 fewer roll calls than a normal two-year session.
Instead of producing legislation the old-fashioned way, Republicans and President Obama jousted over a series of deadlines — expiring funding for federal agencies, exhausting Treasury’s borrowing authority, expiring tax cuts — that led to a recurring series of crises that left Congress deeply unpopular.