Friday, February 16, 2007

House leads, Senate follows

The current Congressional session is still young, but already I'm seeing an interesting phenomenon: the Senate is dancing to the House's tune.

On two pieces of major legislation, the Democratic leadership in the Senate has gotten sidetracked or bludgeoned with its own versions, and ended up adopting the House versions. It happened on ethics, and it most recently happened with the anti-surge resolutions.

There are, of course, counterexamples. Congress will likely adopt the Senate version of the minimum-wage bill, for example, though there will be a debate over the size of the small-business tax breaks that will be included.

Why is the House leading? Some of the blame can be traced to the byzantine procedural rules in the Senate, which make it easy for a minority to tie things in knots and encourages all sorts of complicated proposals. As well, the Senate is supposed to be the more deliberative body, and it's commonplace for it to add superstructure to a too-simple House bill -- ideally turning a legal club into a scalpel. It's a good internal check within the legislative branch.

Further, the House speakership is a far more powerful position than Senate majority leader, so it makes sense that Nancy Pelosi is driving the legislative train.

But some of it seems to be either miscalculation or mistakes by Harry Reid. In both cases the House versions were simpler than the Senate ones, and in the case of the ethics bill the House version was stronger, as well. At a minimum the House leadership appears to be better at bill-writing. On top of that, Reid seems to have misunderstood what sort of compromises were necessary to get the Senate version passed, and not be as good as he needs to be at counting noses.

It'll be interesting to see how the push-pull develops through the remainder of the session.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

huh? is this a typo?

On two pieces of major legislation, the Democratic leadership in the House has gotten sidetracked or bludgeoned with its own versions, and ended up adopting the House versions.

2/16/2007 8:57 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Oops! Fixed.

2/17/2007 8:39 AM  

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