Thursday, March 18, 2010

How Bills Used To Become Law

Like many kids growing up in the 1970s, I learned early about how laws are made in the United States from watching Saturday morning cartoons. Specifically, School House Rock's "How A Bill Becomes A Law." That is why like a lot of Americans, I am confused by the "reconciliation process" that could possibly allow the healthcare reform bill to be passed without going through proper channels or garnering the necessary votes for passage. Instead, Congress would "deem" the bill to have passed, and thus undermine the Constitution and everything for which it stands. I know Democrats like to tout that these (self-mandated) reforms are "for the people," but does this sound like government "of the people, by the people"? It certainly doesn't to me.

Yes, "deem and pass" has been used in the past to push through legislation, and so I agree with the cries of hypocrisy over the current furor. The real problem, for me and for many, stems from its use at all in any issue. Frankly, I don't see how it can even be considered Constitutional, with its circumvention of the legislative process and representative government; perhaps it needs to be judicially challenged. (Supreme Court? Hello?) With something as important as health care, the issue should not be forced by such a process but resolved through a vote of the entire Congress.

As a Wall Street Journal editorial points out, "Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution says that in order for a 'Bill' to 'become a Law,' it 'shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate.' This is why the House and Senate typically have a conference committee to work out differences in what each body passes...If Congress can now decide that the House can vote for one bill and the Senate can vote for another, and the final result can be some arbitrary hybrid, then we have abandoned one of [James] Madison's core checks and balances."

Perhaps today's politicians need to re-watch some old-time Saturday morning programming.

©2010 Steve Sagarra

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