July 28, 2017
In the New York Times Opinion Pages, Mark Schmitt explains why the budget reconciliation process this week exemplifies citizens' frustrations with our Legislative Branch.
It’s been many years since the budget reconciliation process was employed as intended, to bring spending and taxes in line with a budget plan. It’s now a strange political weapon, extremely powerful but available only in certain limited and arbitrary circumstances. Its odd limits shape policy in ways that make no sense to citizens or even most senators, producing results driven by the quirks of the process rather than any consensus among lawmakers.
While even these special rules weren’t enough to get Obamacare repeal through, the Senate should nonetheless rethink this bizarre process, along with the rules of the 60-vote Senate. Perhaps it would make sense to break the distinction between the 50- and 60-vote Senates, and settle on one process, one that gives individual senators and minority blocs ample opportunity to voice disagreement and offer amendments but that also ultimately allows a majority to achieve the policy goals that its members campaigned on.
The Senate is never going to be perfectly democratic or majoritarian as long as a state with about 12 percent of the nation’s population (California) has the same two votes as a state with less than about 0.2 percent (Wyoming), but the closed and tightly controlled institution we’ve seen this week — and will see again — lacks even the small merits of the Senate the founders envisioned.