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Who should decide which legislation gets past the committee stage in Congress

Updated on December 12, 2013

Much legislation is proposed in the halls of Congress both in the Senate and the House of Representatives each year. There are hundreds if not thousands of legislative actions are proposed on a wide number of topics and as a result decisions must be made as to which legislative proposals get passed the committee stage. To clarify when proposals initiated by our elected officials they are assigned to a committee or committees in some cases to review the content and purpose of legislative proposals. Each committee in the House of Representatives and the Senate has difficult tasks to accomplish some more than others given their legislative responsibilities.

Committees are made up of Republicans and Democrats and the party in power in each of the houses assigns committee chairs. This action has been in place for a long time and the rules in assigning these chairs are up to each house of Congress which can be changed as they wish. The authority for this can be found in the Constitution. That being said the authority being given to committee chairs over legislative proposals assigned to a committee should raise some questions.

As I understand it committee chairs make the decisions as to which legislative proposals that reach the full floor of each house of Congress. I understand the need to have an individual make final decisions regarding legislative actions being reviewed but the decisions to be made should be based on the quality of the legislative proposal in conjunction with the objective it wants to accomplish. If this is part of the process it is a great thing but if it is not each house of Congress needs to consider this aspect. It makes or should not make any difference from whom a legislative proposal is initiated.

From what I have observed in terms of legislative proposals some which have value may never get to the full body for debate and voting. Proposals sometimes are the result of party policies and while each may not necessarily agree with a proposal it should be up to the full chamber in terms of acceptance or rejection. Each member of a committee will do their own review and come to a conclusion as to the viability of the actions and objectives being proposed. When a decision needs to be made it should be made by a majority of the committee to push a proposal forward to the full chamber not a committee chair.

The authority over legislative proposals in each of the committees needs to be reviewed to determine if the process needs to be revised or revamped. Processes in Congress seem to change at the drop of a hat to put it mildly but each legislative proposal deserves a fair hearing. Neither political party has all the answers given the wide range of issues which need to be addressed. Each committee in both houses of Congress needs to understand this and accept this concept.

Granted the culture in Congress at the present time is not one of fully embracing each political party’s ideas and approaches to issues. Political leaders in some instances have chosen to totally ignore ideas from the opposite political party. This is not how issues get resolved. Both political parties and their leaders must get down to the business for which they were elected. Firm action on major issues need to be initiated before the impact of decisions which will be forced upon us as a country hurts every individual and our economy. We have seen other countries of the world not face their issues head on and they are now suffering the consequences for their lack of action. We do not want our country to fall into the same situation.

Each legislative action or proposal needs to be openly evaluated at the committee level. Preconceived opinions can sometimes be generated based on the topic and policies of the other political party. Each committee member should honestly reserve judgment on any proposal until it has been properly reviewed and evaluated based on the merits of the actions it identifies. Honest evaluations of legislation need to take place so the right decisions and approaches to the issues can be made regardless of which political party comes up with logical approaches to our country’s issues.

In the last election the voters sent a message to our elected officials and we now have a divided government with Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans controlling the House of Representatives. It is hoped that members of both political parties through the committee process take heed from the voters in giving each proposal a fair chance to be debated in the full chamber. Those who continue on the path to not provide this opportunity may find them out of a job after the next election when voters make their decisions if they are working for the country or their political party. We can only hope that there will be a cultural change in the operation of Congress after the next election. It will depend on voters honestly recognizing those individuals who are hard at work for what is best for the country and their constituents. Voters are getting more angry about several issues and if our elected officials ignore this anger and do nothing they will feel the anger in the votes of their constituents.


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