Legislative Rules, Procedures and Deliberations

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You will assume the role of a reporter from a major newspaper (choose your rag or make one up) whose beat is Congress. Your job is to cover the labyrinthine journey of a major piece of legislation through either the House or the Senate (choose a recent bill that became law or one that is pending). Write a newspaper article that briefly outlines the bill in question and lucidly describes the hurdles it had to overcome on the floor of the full House or Senate.

See attached lesson reading and rubric. lesson reading must be referenced in assignment per Rubic – mentions at least three concepts from the required weekly readings.

500 words. 2 scholarly sources.

Week 4 Lesson

In Week 4, you are encouraged to step into the role of a Capitol Hill reporter for a major newspaper.  Your task will be to cover the debate and passage of an actual bill that has recently become law or been proposed as law.  You will then write an article on both the importance of the bill (which you will choose) and the deliberations on the floor of the House or Senate which led to its ultimate passage.

In this lesson, we will discuss:

  • Legislative Process

Key concepts will include:

  • How laws are made
  • Filibuster/Cloture

How Our Laws are Made

The federal legislative process is continually changing as our lawmakers are able to make some adjustments to the process for each house of Congress. The political parties, predominantly with the Republican and Democratic parties, continue to wield enormous influence in the process. However, the bicameral structure of our legislative process provides some built in protection for minority points of view.

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Please take the time to read the document titled “How our Laws are Made” which is a thorough examination of the federal legislative process.

The legislative process is complicated, indeed.  In fact, each newly-elected representative in Congress goes through her own special training when she gets to Congress. The rules can be so intricate and have evolved over time. Timing and presentation can often make or break a bill’s chance of successful arrival at the president’s desk for signature.

While it may seem obvious to some, it is worth noting that legislative procedure in each state and local government varies, and these procedures, while having a lot in common with the federal process, also vary from Congress’ legislative process.  For example, some governors enjoy the ability to have a line item veto – the ability to delete certain items from legislation.  This would allows the governors to veto specific pieces of legislation without having to veto the entire thing. The president had this power for a short time when the Line Item Veto Act of 1996 was passed, and a number of pork projects were eliminated, but the law was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. The House of Representatives attempted to pass a similar law again in 2011, but it died in the Senate.

 

There is a good flow chart of the legislative process and is interactive such that you may click on a stage and receive further guidance and information.  You may find that chart in the Readings.  Enjoy!

 

 

Filibuster

Early in 2013, after much negotiation, Senate Leaders Harry Reid (Majority Leader -D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (Minority Leader-R-KY) agreed to a compromise that reforms the Senate Filibuster rules. Don’t get too excited, as there are some changes, but not the kind that Rep. Jeff Merkley from Oregon has been pushing for years. In essence, the leaders agreed to a compromise that “left the rules largely unchanged. It will be slightly easier for the president’s nominees for judgeships and positions in his administration to get approved and it will speed up a few procedural steps, but the necessity of having a supermajority to get a bill passed remains.”(Horsey, 2013)

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Senate Resolution 15 creates a temporary “standing order” that expires at the end of the 113thCongress in 2015. Senate Resolution 16, on the other hand, is a permanent change.   Here is an outline of what the changes achieve:

With the Motion to Proceed, the majority now has two ways in which to address a filibuster:

First, the standing order states that the Filibuster is dead if the majority party guarantees the minority party two amendments. Note, however, that “non-germane” amendments (deemed not directly relevant to the bill) would still require 60 votes for passage.

Second, majority and minority leaders may agree to speed things up by agreeing to move on to a motion to proceed after ditching a filibuster. Whereas in the past, a vote on a cloture motion could not take place until an entire business day had passed, now a petition signed by both leaders and seven members of each caucus can be voted on the day it is submitted.

New rules for presidential appointments address the concerns of holding up appointments. The standing order limits debate following a cloture vote on Level 1 appointments and judicial nominees to eight hours (previously 30 hours), and to two hours for district court appointments. (Krohn, 2013)

It is also worth noting, although we might not hold our breath on this one, that the leaders “reached a sort-of “gentlemen’s agreement” that Senators must make the effort to show up on the Senate floor if they want to filibuster. They won’t have to stand and talk, like some reformers wanted, but they would at least have check in personally at the start of the process.” (Krohn, 2013)

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The Filibuster is also explained and discussed in the short video and transcript included in the readings:  “Senate Locked Over Filibuster Debate.”

In 2013, the Senate voted to change the Filibuster rules to exclude this possible tool for presidential appointments of judicial (excluding Supreme Court justices) and executive nominees.  This is a change that has been debated by the respective political parties for years, and the Democratic led Senate finally took this unusual move.  Then, in 2017, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell used the “nuclear option” to avoid filibuster and secure the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch.

 

Wrap-up:

 

During Week 4, we analyzed the federal legislative process and explored particular bills and laws selected by students.

 

Next week, we will evaluate the conflicting relationship between the Congress and the President.

 

 

 

 

References:

Horsey, David. “Sen. Harry Reid’s filibuster deal infuriates liberal Democrats.” Los Angeles Times. Jan. 24, 2013. http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-filibuster-deal-20130124,0,699038.story (accessed Jan. 28, 2013).

Krohn, Johnathan. “What the Senate Filibuster Does – And Doesn’t Do.” Mother Jones. Jan. 25, 2013. http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/01/filibuster-compromise-reid-mitchell-congress (accessed Jan. 28, 2013).

 

 

Last Updated on October 16, 2019 by EssayPro