Legislative 101

Regular Order in Congress

Something you might be hearing a lot of these days is what’s called “regular order.” Basically what regular order means is “following the normal legislative process.” While that might seem pretty straightforward, and like something we should all get behind, the truth is some Republicans are interpreting regular order in an undemocratic way in order to fast track their harmful legislative priorities, and as cover for abandoning the basic principle of transparency.

So Is What We’re Seeing from Republicans Regular Order?

Well… let’s compare. When Congress debated the last major tax overhaul in 1985, Democrats in the House held 26 days of markup and 30 hearings of the full Ways and Means committee with testimony from more than 450 witnesses over the course of several months. This time around, the House GOP wants to hold 4 days of markup in one week with testimony from a single witness, and move to vote almost immediately after. All told, Republicans want to rush the Trump Tax Scam through both chambers of Congress and on to Trump’s desk in less than a month, compared to the 13 month, bipartisan process used for the Tax Reform Act of 1986.

With true regular order…

We would expect to see a bill introduced and referred to committees with jurisdiction. This text would immediately be made available to the public. Americans would be able to read a summary of the proposed bill in plain-language, and the GOP would schedule hearings to consider the nature of the individual policies proposed within the scope of the entire measure. For example, under true regular order, the GOP would hold hearings on how their proposed phase-out of provisions beneficial to students, such as the student loan interest deduction, would affect higher education.

What’s happening now is not that.

Right now, Republicans are scrambling because they want to get Trump to sign the Tax Scam before the end of the year. They’re only giving the public, and even other Members of Congress, a couple of days to review the text of the Tax Scam. They’re rushing their process for a reason: They know that if the public finds out exactly what Republicans are trying to do, their constituents won’t stand for it.

So what’s the rush?  

It’s because they’re scared of you, the people, their constituents. Your pressure during the health care process scared them, and now they want to give you as little time as possible to fight back against their Tax Scam. They do not want to face you at town halls and other events in their districts and have to answer questions about their plan to pay for a massive tax cut for the wealthy and corporations by forcing deep cuts down the line to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Demand transparency. Demand regular order for the process. Let your Member of Congress know you will not be ignored.