“Republicans Prepare New Rules, but Fixing Congress Isn’t So Easy”

Carl Hulse for the NYT:

Smarting after a dozen years under iron-fisted Republican rule, House Democrats promised to do things differently and open up the institution when they regained majority control in 2007.

One of their changes was to allow any lawmaker to offer amendments to the voluminous spending bills once they hit the floor. Republicans seized the opportunity and put forth scores of politically charged proposals to alter a routine agriculture spending bill, bringing the debate to a virtual standstill. Democrats quickly reversed course and put limits on amendments.

Now the new House Republican majority is proposing to make institutional changes of its own as part of a rules package Speaker Kevin McCarthy negotiated with hard-right rebels in exchange for their support for his job. The handful of Republicans who are forcing the changes, which are scheduled to be considered on Monday, pointed to the rushed approval in December of a roughly $1.7 trillion spending bill to fund the entire government as an example of back-room legislating at its worst.

“What this rules package is designed to do is to stop what we saw happen literally 15 days ago, where the Democrats passed a $1.7 trillion monstrosity of a bill that spent the American taxpayers’ money in all kinds of crazy ways,” Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, said Sunday on Fox News. He said Republicans would require 72 hours to allow lawmakers to pore over any bill.

Part of the fight over the speakership was about the way Congress works, in particular the unwieldy “omnibus” spending bills that appear to materialize out of nowhere and with only minutes to spare.

But restoring any semblance of order and structure to the consideration of spending bills and other measures will prove to be extremely difficult with conservative Republicans in charge of the House and Democrats controlling the Senate and the White House. The new dynamic is more likely a prescription for shutdown and gridlock. The roots of dysfunction run deep.

Even lawmakers with long experience in trying to make Congress work acknowledged the collapse of what is called “regular order” — the civics class version of “how a bill becomes law” in getting legislation through the House and the Senate and signed by the president.

“We have clearly found new levels of inefficiency in the past decade — one big bill at the end of the year to fund the government, plus whatever the four leaders of the House and Senate can agree to add to it,” lamented Roy Blunt, the Republican senator from Missouri who retired this year after serving in the leadership of both the House and the Senate.

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