Monday, June 16, 2003

Democracy in America

Just in case you were still under the impression that all views can be expressed and voted on the U.S. Congress, the Washington Post describes how democracy, as interpreted by Rules Committee Chair David Dreier (R-CA), really works:
On many high-profile issues, Dreier, whose committee decides the rules for each debate, has refused to allow Democrats an opportunity to offer a substitute amendment on the House floor. He has infuriated Democrats by denying them votes on their plans for everything from unemployment insurance to tax cuts.

This may sound like inside baseball, but it has a huge impact on what bills pass the House and become laws.

By preventing Democrats from offering amendments, Republicans virtually eliminate the possibility of the House passing legislation not endorsed or written by GOP leaders. As important, they eliminate a key opportunity for Democrats to divide Republicans by writing alternative bills that might appeal to moderate Republicans. Republicans also protect their members from swing districts from having to vote for or against some bills that could hurt them politically in the next election.
Dislaimer: I went to college with Dave Dreier. The only thing I remember about him was that he was one of the only two people I knew in my class (and possibly in the entire college) that wore a tie to class every day. This was the early '70's. Hell, back then, some people didn't even wear clothes to class.