The U.S. Congress is responsible for law making, representing the people and helping constituents. It has two chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate is smaller while the House is larger because every state has the number of representatives. The Congress is expected to make progress through policymaking. However, Americans have always been dissatisfied with the Congress’ lack of progress, because the members do not play their part in enhancing change. The paper will demystify the difficult and convoluted process of passing legislation and substantiate how the legislation can die at different points in the system. It will also encapsulate a discussion on filibuster as well as any reforms that would be proposed to the Congress.
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The Process of Passing Legislation
Legislation is the primary function of the Congress. The legislation process is instigated by the introduction of a bill by the Congress member. The bill is then assigned to a committee after which it is voted on, debated, and amended. The bill can only move to the Senate if it passes by simple majority. In the Senate, the bill is also debated and voted on after which it will require to be passed by simple majority. The House and Senate members then work out any disparities between the House and Senate versions of the bill after which it is returned to the House and Senate for final approval. The final process involves printing the revised bill through enrolling and waiting for the President to sign or veto the enrolled bill within ten days.
The bill will automatically become law if the President does not respond in ten days. Similarly, if the President vetoes the bill, the Congress can overturn the veto with two-thirds of those present vote which is always difficult to achieve. However, the Framers of the Constitution intended the process to be slow in the quest of negating the chances of infringing citizen’s rights and liberties. Legislations can be either bills, joint resolutions, concurrent resolutions or simple resolutions. Even though the two chambers are equal in their legislative role and functions, only the House has the prerogative of originating revenue legislation. On the other hand, the Senate can approve treaties and confirm presidential nominations.
The process of passing legislation is arduous and complicated because the members of the Congress will have different opinions. In fact, the Congress considers the proposed bills for months and years before a bill becomes a law. The complexity of the legislation process can be attributed to the fact that the contemporary American life is getting complicated and requires certain laws to govern it. The difficult and convoluted process of passing legislation has major ramifications pertinent to government obstruction and undermining the rule of law. In addition, the difficult process is caused by the fact that it is bicameral and has more powers, thus, making it difficult to pass legislations. Moreover, the biggest obstacle in passing legislations is that it is a prerequisite for all legislations to pass through both houses of Congress before being vetoed by the President.
How Legislation Can “Die” at Different Points in the System
The process of passing a bill is more difficult and complicated than killing one. This is because there are different predicaments in the legislative process under which a bill can die. This explains why only a few bills survive to become laws. Every chamber has additional blocks with committees and subcommittees, and this can kill a bill before it reaches the floor. In fact, committees are organizational and not constitutional thus implying they could change the system at their own will. The Senate also has the filibuster as well as the legislative hold which gives them the prerogative of manipulating the organizational rules.
Legislation can also die if the committee refer the bill to the subcommittees for action, hearing and mark up sessions and does nothing about it at all. The process is known as pigeonholing. In addition, if a committee does not approve a bill, the bill will not be sent to the full House or the Senate, and this can also kill legislation. This is likely to happen in the floor debate when it fails to attain a majority vote. Moreover, legislation can also die if it is vetoed by the President, because it will not pass to become a law. However, even though the Congress can override the veto by a vote of two-thirds of those present, the process is always complicated and hard to attain the required vote. Therefore, legislation can only die if the President vetoes the bill, and the committee does nothing about it. A bill can also die during the filibuster process which has been comprehensively discussed below.
A Discussion of a Filibuster
A filibuster pertains to a parliamentary procedure of prolonging a debate in the quest of impeding the voting process of a given proposal. It holds the Senate floor and prevents the vote on a bill. The essence of the filibuster process is to talk continuously and prevent a matter from being voted on. In fact, a filibuster is also one of the points in the legislation system where legislation can die. A filibuster can be a lengthy speech or a series of speeches where a minority party agrees to block a vote. Other techniques used in delaying legislative action include quorum calls, parliamentary maneuvers, lengthy roll-call votes, and the introduction of a large number of amendments. Initially, a filibuster had an ulterior objective of ensuring the minority opinions were heard and understood before the orchestration of the voting process in the Senate.
However, even though the United States Constitution does not explicitly give senators the prerogative to filibuster, it permits the Congress to make its rules. In this respect, filibustering is encapsulated in the Congress’ rules. The Senate has also been gradually changing the rules because it now requires a super majority to invoke cloture and move to a vote. It is equally important to acknowledge the distinction between filibuster and chubbing because the latter pertains to the extension of a debate on individual bills. The extension can take place both in the House and Senate. Several bills could have become law were it not for the filibuster. Such bills include the Buffet Rule, American Jobs Act, Dream Act, Card Check, and the Gun Control legislation.
Some people consider a filibuster as a good thing because it helps in the preservation of minority rights as well as the careful consideration of issues. Moreover, the majority party can also shape a bill in a manner that the substantial minority will not block it with a filibuster. Others feel that the filibustering process gives a minority group a platform to dictate the majority. It also wastes time that can be put to a better use. The process can also be a hindrance to the legislative process because it can give a senator the right to terminate a bill that could be supported by the public. In fact, this explains why the majority party supports a filibuster while the minority always opposes it.
Senators have always been reluctant in giving up the power that the filibuster affords them. The process is also intricate because changing the rule requires two-thirds vote to pass while the rule can also be filibustered. However, some rules can be stopped through the cloture rule. Invoking a cloture requires a Senator to wait 48 hours before the commencement of filibuster, obtain at least six signatures and make sure at least 60 senators vote to end debate on a matter. Even though the filibuster process extends the legislative process while it can also lead to the death of legislation, its elimination can be counterproductive. This is because its elimination would imply that the minority party will no longer have the abilities to block the legislative agendas. This might have an impact of changing how the Senate and the Congress pass bills.
Even though passing legislation is complicated, it is a good thing because the Congress amends laws that are beneficial to the citizens. Therefore, what ought to be prioritized is a reformation of the Congress so as to make legislation more efficient. The reforms proposed to the Congress have an ulterior objective of improving democratic engagement as well as legislative quality. Moreover, the Congress needs to be reformed to pass legislation that benefits Americans as opposed to the members of the Congress. The Congress can be reformed by ensuring that the superfluous and tedious statutes are brought into one sum and made plain, short, and more precise.
Moreover, the Congress can greatly reduce the government’s size or increase its professional support in the quest of making it easier to oversee the orchestration of major activities. The other reform would be setting term limits legislation thus affecting those who reprint the people in the parliament. It will also bring new people, new mindsets, and new energy in the Congress. Revising the term limits will also inject urgency and compel the legislators to prioritize what is important, and focus on key issues. In fact, both houses of the Congress are always unresponsive and place themselves above the laws they enact. After all, serving in the Congress should be a privilege and not a career. Therefore, congressional pensions and other special treatments should also be done away with because such programs are unnecessary and superfluous.
The Congress should also ensure that the budget incorporates the long-term estimates for entitlement programs. The reconciliation instructions should also include specific provisions that ensure long-term viability of certain programs. The Congress should also have a Congressional record with specific proceedings. This will deter members from rewriting speeches that are delivered when debates are ongoing. In addition, the Congress should not enact the joint committee so long as it has a clue of what recommendations would look like. This is because it would comprise the openness and credibility of the process. The members of the Congress should also confront the problems of a country head on, regardless of whether they are in the majority or the minority.
The Congress is responsible for making laws that propel a country towards development through the consideration of the citizens’ wellbeing. However, Americans are not always satisfied with the Congress’ legislative processes. This is because the process of passing legislation is difficult and convoluted while legislation can ‘die’ at different points in the system. For instance, legislation can ‘die’ in the filibuster process when members prolong a debate or through quorum calls. However, the Congress can be reformed to change how the members pass legislations. The Congress needs to embark on a thorough and rigorous dedication of reconsidering suggestions for reforms so as to restore confidence in the institution. This will make it accountable to the people and obedient to the Constitution.
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