How to Tell if John McCain is Serious about Returning to “Regular Order”

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Media Outlet: Vox

Lee Drutman wrote for Vox's Polyarchy about why Congress is in trouble and the steps returning to "regular order" would require. 

Sen. John McCain has written a Washington Post op-ed making the now-standard Washington argument that “it’s time for Congress to return to regular order.” These days, the call for “regular order” in Congress is becoming like the weather: Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it....
....But if Sen. McCain is truly serious about bringing about regular order, here’s a plan:
First, assemble a new rump faction, big enough to determine the majority. Jeff Flake and Susan Collins would be obvious confederates. And since Republicans currently have a 52-48 edge in the Senate, you’ll need at least three confederates, though ideally you’d get more.
Then, go to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and offer a deal: We’ll make you majority leader if you agree to a process of regular order. Let the committee process work. Give each committee an equal balance of Republicans and Democrats, and adequate staffing capacity to develop policy and hold hearings independently.
Would Schumer take this deal? He should. Democrats are not likely to win back the majority in 2018, so he’s looking at until at least 2020 before Democrats are in charge. It seems like a pretty good deal for Democrats. Though then again, it’s sometimes easier to be leader when you’re in the minority and all you have to do is say no, as Mitch McConnell is now learning. So who knows?
What would happen? Lots of chaos and possibly quite a bit of gridlock. But how would this be any different from what the Senate produces now? And yes, maybe both sides would just wait until the next election when they could gain back majority power. But if a few more Republicans and some Democratic senators (I’m looking at Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, and Heidi Heitkamp) join the rump middle faction as well, that might be enough to keep this arrangement stable enough to convince the rest of the Senate they should figure out how to make it work.

Author:

Lee Drutman is a senior fellow in the program on political reform at New America. He is the author of The Business of America is Lobbying (Oxford University Press, 2015).