Thursday, November 10, 2016

A couple quick letters for policy wonks

Decided to drop a couple notes to Senator McConnell and Speaker Ryan, not on issues but on policy. My representatives are well to the left in both chambers and my communications fall on deaf ears, but with the new president and Republican control of both houses, perhaps now is the time to reform some of the ways that we do business. For what it's worth, here they are.
Subject: Omnibus Spending Bills

Dear Congressman Ryan,

I am writing to you as the Speaker of the House, not as a representative of the people, to promote some strategy for the upcoming work that you will be doing with President Trump. I believe that it is time to abandon the idea of omnibus spending bills and return to the practice of funding each department and activity of government separately.

The concept of omnibus bills has, in my opinion, led to a lack of transparency in funding. Spending bills are so large that it is impossible to determine what exactly they are funding. Departmental appropriation bills, while perhaps requiring more time to craft and pass, have two advantages as I see it.

One, they are more transparent. Here is the money that we are planning on spending to fund programs x, y, and z. Easily understandable to the average citizen for whom the spending is supposedly being made. This is what we are going to do and here is how much we are going to spend on it.

Two, they are less susceptible to veto and political considerations. One of my frustrations with omnibus bills is that a president who wishes to make a political point can shut down the government by exercising his veto of the complete spending plan represented by an omnibus bill (I do understand that the vast majority of government spending continues to plod along without Congressional action but most people don't). A return to individual appropriations would allow Congress and the President to agree on the vast majority of spending items while saving the political fight for the issues on which they actually have major disagreements. I believe that this would be beneficial to both parties and to the people.

I hope you will consider my idea as you move forward with a new President and new opportunities to determine how Congress and the federal government can work more effectively to actually serve the people within Constitutional bounds.

Subject: Affordable Care Act Repeal

Dear Senator McConnell,

I am writing to you as the leader of the Senate, not as a representative of the people, to promote some strategy for the upcoming work that you will be doing with President Trump.  I know that you have promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with free market reforms and I will leave the details of those reforms up to those who study the topic and are well placed to provide educated and meaningful advice.  However, I did want to address a legislative strategy regarding this repeal and replacement.

The Republican party seems, on occasion, to undermine themselves by playing by the old rules while the opposition changes the rules to benefit themselves.  One example of the oppositions misuse of the rules was the passage of the ACA on a simple majority vote using parliamentary tricks.  I don't have to remind you that the ACA was passed without one single Republican vote and there was no opportunity for a filibuster of the legislation.
It would make sense, in my opinion, to pass the repeal under the exact same provisions, thereby only requiring a majority vote for repeal.  The arguments that the Democrats made to pass the legislation in this manner should be vigorously repeated on every talk show and to every media outlet who will grant an interview.  The American people must understand that both sides are playing by the same rules, a point which the media will ignore as they condemn Republican tactics if you pursue this strategy.

I am not suggesting that we necessarily resort to such tactics to advance a conservative agenda, but rather than we use the actions of the Democrats as they relate to specific legislation to repeal their agenda items.  The Republican party can no longer afford to play by a completely different set of rules.  With the media aligned against conservative ideas and a Democratic party willing to do whatever it takes in contravention of established and agreed upon convention, I believe that the time has come to use the system that they have established rather than constantly fall behind by insisting on abiding by a system that only one side utilizes.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope to see a headline soon about the complete repeal and replacement of the ACA legislation that is destroying our health care system.

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