Tag Archives: Constitution

Rules Are Rules

We are now a country that cannot legislate.  So why is this governmental stalemate so intractable? It’s as if our system has evolved into all checks and no balance. It seems structural, but this is not the fault of Constitutional bicameralism and separation-of-powers. Instead, it is a gridlock of Congress‘s own rules — rules of parliamentary procedure in a legislative body that is not a parliament. As a result, passing legislation is no longer a matter of politics, but game theory. The filibuster rule, the “Hastert Rule,” special legislative rules — these are the rules that are making even mundane progress impossible. Unlike statutes and regulations, these are rules formulated without direct public accountability. These are rules by the houses of Congress for the houses of Congress. There are no hearings, there is no notice-and-comment. These rules, necessary to give sense and structure the the internal and day-to-day workings of the legislative body, are now creating nonsense and chaos in our broader society. The internal rules of legislative procedure have swallowed our founders’ designs for adopting legislation. We now have government shutdowns, judicial vacancies, and basic questions about what the full faith and credit of the United States even means anymore. Instead of rules of procedure to facilitate legislative action, we have rules to legitimize obstruction and stalemate. We are a nation of laws. Citizens and public officers are sworn to support and defend the Constitution — not the Senate and House rules. It’s time for reform.