Minimal Details to Public Before Congress Votes

Lately Congress is starting to vote on bills shortly after the details are released to the public. During the healthcare repeal and replace fight several votes occurred over a few days. Did the public have enough time to understand the details of proposed laws? The current tax reform details have been released in drips and drabs as well. The original framework of simple talking points released in late September. Then some more bullet points in late October. The GOP said publicly bill details would be released on November 1st instead it was a day later. During this period tidbits were released to gauge public reaction as a litmus test. About potential 401K and SALT deduction changes. Since then 401K deductions have been saved but others proposed for elimination. The House of Representatives will change this bill several times more. Rep. Joe Courtney from Connecticut on CSPAN today said Paul Ryan wants to force a vote on this next week. He also said the Ways and Means Committee is going to set this for markup without one hearing. He was upset, and he also mentioned that it was not done this way in the past. They are meeting currently and the details were just released on November 2nd. Trump has stated he wants it passed before Thanksgiving and on his desk by Christmas to become law. Another sloppy rush job by a helpless and broken Congress? Or a strategic lack of public information pre-vote in order to skip public input?

Is this a thing? Lawmakers waiting until close to the vote to release final details? As a strategy? This could be bad as elected representatives would be separated from their constituency in the period between bill details release and the vote. With the risk being members of Congress not voting in the interests of their constituents. Decided to take a quick look-see.

In early August 2017 the Congressional Management Foundation released a report called The State of the Congress. It was the result of a 2016 survey of senior House and Senate staff. If had interesting results about the shortage of congressional staff and the lack of time to adequately debate bills. Terrible results to be made aware of frankly. Only 6% of Congressional Staff say they have “adequate time to and resources to understand, consider, and deliberate policy and legislation.” The same study also relayed a frustration from staffers in getting what they call good information. Another issue at hand is that earmarks and pork have gone underground. These earmarks now tend to be peppered into the bill language and nobody knows where they come from because they have no names attached. Add to this lots of proof that the partisan divide cultivated in the Obama and Trump administrations has resulted in a stagnant Congress. Scuttling any bi-partisan anything and sending lawmaking increasingly to secret back rooms. Another article relayed the case this is the Mitch McConnell way of doing things. Which would make sense if you believe he is beholden only to his big corporate donors and the most powerful lobbyists. Links to these articles are below.

This does seem to be a thing. Details of bills are coming to the surface late and votes rushed. Staffers are overworked and recognize they can’t adequately keep up. The part where the public is informed so they can react is being skipped. Keep an eye on the tax plan bill this month from this point of view.


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