The cost of reconciliation
One thing I'd wanted to add to my Newsweek piece but didn't have the space to include is that congressional paralysis -- in this case, the filibuster -- doesn't just lead to inaction and outsourcing, but inefficient action.
Filibusters waste a lot of time because they take a week to break, even when you have more than 60 votes. Resorting to the budget reconciliation process leads to very strange legislative text that is written to avoid parliamentary challenge rather than to achieve its objectives at the lowest possible cost. For instance: Conservatives wanted strong abortion regulations in the health-care bill and liberals wants federally regulated exchanges, but neither made the cut because neither was safe to include in the budget reconciliation process.
The normal calculus around the filibuster is that supporters argue it moderates legislative outcomes (though it has historically been used for purposes we would consider extreme, such as blocking anti-lynching legislation) while opponents say it ensures inaction on problems that need to be solved. I'd say that's incomplete: It encourages Congress to outsource its responsibilities to independent commissions, the executive branch and its associated agencies, and the courts; and it means that Congress operates less efficiently as people try to counter rules that have been pressed into service of obstruction by leaning on rules that lend themselves to majoritarianism (if not to great legislating). Maybe that's how people want Washington to work, but I'm skeptical.
Photo credit: Melina Mara/The Washington Post.
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