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RubinsTextP5 - 80 The Politics ofPublit Budveting Micro...

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Unformatted text preview: 80 The Politics ofPublit: Budveting Micro Politics—Bending the Rules to Wiulndividual r, , ’ Minicase: ’ ‘ 'Decisions Bill Dauster, then chief Democratic counsel of the Senate Budget Committee, argued in a speech that the Republican majority in Congress showed a willful disregard for rules and laws when it served their legislative, purposes.‘ In one case, to approve some unrelated legislation favoring the Federal Express Corporation, the Senate Republicans changed a century- old, standing rule that limited conference committees to the subject of the legislation that was sent to the conference. Dauster charged that the Senate overturned another century-old rule, this one limiting legislation in appropriations bills. At the national level, there is a difference between appropriations hills, which provide money, and bills that design and modify programs. Appropriations bills are supposed to contain money approved for each program; they are not supposed to contain new legislation modifying programs or creating new ones. New or modifying legislation can take years to hammer out, as compromises between interests are negotiated. By contrast, appropriations bills are “must- pass”~—the government will shut down unless there is money appropriated, ' ‘ to pay for its programs and services. Allowing legislation in appropriations bills empowers a simple majority of the Senate to add unrelated provisions to a fast-track budget vehicle that is likely to pass. The reason for such an important change in the rules, according to Dauster, was to adopt an unrelated amendment sponsored by Sen. Kay _ Bailey Hutchison, R«Texas. Hutchison’s amendment to an emergency sup. plemental appropriation bill was a rescission or withdrawal of funding for / the rest of the year, so that no new endangered species could be declared while an authorizing committee was working on revisions in the law to makeit more difficult to declare a species endangered. Hutchinson thus accomplished quickly and for the short term, without a reauthorization bill, what she hoped to accomplish with reauthorization legislation later in a i broader, mare deliberative setting. Dauster also charged the Republicans with abusing their scorekeeping powers. He argued that on October 27, 1995, during consideration of an amendment by chairman William Roth, R~Del., of the Finance Committee, _ ,r Budget Committee chairman Pete Domenici, R—N.M., misrepresented off— budget Sotial Security savings as if they were on-budget savings and thus 2 " paved the way for adoption of Roth’s amendment by circumventing proce- dural obstacles that would have required sixty votes to waive. Under the y, Budget'Enforcement Act, Social Security was supposed to bereft-budget, # ' so counting savings in Social Security was a violation of the Budget Act. One senator raised a point of order noting the Violation, but rather than rec~ I , ' ognize the point of order, Domenici used his discretion as chair of the Budget The Politics of Process 81 Committee to make a binding determinatitin of he scored" (counted). It was not that the senator made , approved of the existing rule; it was just that he chose to ignore the violation , , of the rule in this case.2 ‘ Dauster argued that the Republicans had expanded the reconciliation ' process to include nonbudgetary matters and a variety of budgetary issues beyond the basic task of reconciling, or cutting back, budgets to the level required by the budget resolution. The 1974 Congressional Budget Reform ‘ Act contained a procedure requiring the budget committees to assign total figures to the appropriations and revenue committees, which then had to reconcile their own numbers with those of the Budget Committee. The rec- ’ onciliation process in the Senate was fast-tracked: it allowed only germane amendments and it limited debate. Most important, reconciliation bills could be passed by a simple majority. , ~ ‘ Outside the reconciliation process, the rules of the Senate that make that body more deliberate than the House give each member, whether of the minority or the majority, power to obstruct legislation. An individual sena— , tor could filibuster a bill-delay it by speaking on and on—and it would take a supermajority to cut off the speech. That could not occur with reconcili- ation bills. Thus when ordinary legislation was put into the reconciliations, the Senate bypassed its own traditions of individualism and debate. Only germane amendments would be considered, germaneness to be determined by the majority party in committee. In the short run, the Republicans there- fore strengthened their ability to pass their preferred legislation in the Senate over Democratic opposition, but in the long run they altered the delibera» ' . tive traditions of the Senate and its role in the legislative branch. Dauster concluded, This past year, the Republican Senate majority has thus repeatedly arrogated greater power to the majority to use fast—moving legislative trains to move unrelated matters of its choosing. This majority has” thus repeatedly torn down the protections that the Senate affords minorities. This majority has shown a disturbing willingness torcast , , aside long-held precedents and institutions to serve immediate pol- icy ends. That, then, is the unifying theme that runs through the ptoé_ , cedural actions that the Republicans tooklast year and that they seek. to take this year. The Republican Senate stands ready to sell its, birthright for a mess of pottage. It shows contempt for the institution. It focuses solely on the immediate political gain. ' ' ’ 1. Bill Dauster, “Stupid Budget Laws: Remarks before the American ‘ Association of Law Schools,” January 5, 1996, and CongressionalRe‘cord, , , ‘ - October 27, 1995. , - 2. Ibid. ...
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