RealClearPolicy Newsletters: Original Articles

Just a Bill?

Just a Bill?
AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File

Dear Reader —

An unexpected merit of the Trump era is that the intricacies of our baroque legislative process have been thrown into relief. Americans are all familiar with the broad outlines of that process — how a bill becomes a law only after being introduced, debated, and approved by the House, referred to then debated and passed by the Senate, and, finally, signed into law by the president. (Younger Americans can thank Schoolhouse Rock!) Yet, election cycles often encourage the expectation that this process may be magically simplified or circumvented by the victory of this or that president or this or that party.

There are legitimate concerns about gridlock and the end of “regular order” today. But complaints about dysfunction and “outdated” or “arbitrary” parliamentary procedures often mask good old-fashioned frustration and disagreement with the other team. In the age of Trump, once-arcane parliamentary procedures, such as budget reconciliation, the Byrd Rule, and the ins and outs of the Senate filibuster, have become regular topics of debate in the public space. So, too, have the negotiations needed even to get a bill through the House.

The Republicans’ proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is a case in point. In an unanticipated and much-needed victory for the Trump administration — and for Speaker Ryan — the House narrowly approved such a bill on Thursday after multiple false starts and public defeats. Standing in the Rose Garden, President Trump praised Ryan as a “genius,” while the Speaker declared the bill “the beginning of the end of Obamacare.”

The bill now goes to the Senate, where the Budget Committee will determine whether it satisfies the requirements to go through budget reconciliation, a process that would allow Republicans (who hold only a narrow majority in the Senate) to pass the bill without Democratic support or fear of a filibuster. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans must come to an agreement on this repeal-and-replace plan, or some amended — and possibly unrecognizable — version of it. 

Getting the bill through the House was a genuine victory, given today’s inter-party and intra-party politics. But the real test will be whether it can make it all the way to President Trump’s desk. Until then, it remains, to paraphrase Schoolhouse Rock!, just a bill, yes only a bill, sitting here on Capitol Hill.

These are some of the many issues taken up at RealClearPolicy over the past week. Below you will find just a few highlights.

— M. Anthony Mills, editor | RealClearPolicy

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The House Passed Its Health Bill. What Now? The Brookings Institution’s Molly E. Reynolds looks at the prospects for the Republicans’ health-care reform push going forward.

The Overwhelming Evidence Against the Death Penalty. Austin Sarat makes the case in The New Republic.

Will the Supreme Court Defend Citizenship? The Atlantic’s Matt Ford considers whether a new Supreme Court case could grant the administration “broad powers to strip naturalized Americans of their cherished status.”

The Arrogance of Blue America. For The Daily Beast, Joel Kotkin contends that the “worst impacts” of progressive policies can be felt in the “red regions” of blue states. 

The Collapse of American Identity. In The New York Times, Robert P. Jones argues that our national identity, “united by voluntary assent to commonly held political beliefs,” is in danger of unraveling.

Inequality & the Fracturing of American Democracy. In National Review, David Alexander argues the assumption that inequality is irrelevant threatens “social cohesion and, ultimately, democratic institutions.” 

The End of Trump's Revolution? In The American Conservative, David A. Cowan considers whether Donald Trump is the wrong vehicle for the “brand of populism that helped [his] rise to power.”

Dire Debt Outlook Calls for Growth, Not Austerity. In our own pages, Louis R. Woodhill urges conservative analysts to ignore CBO’s grim federal debt projections and focus on economic growth.

Après Gorsuch le Deluge. In First Things, George Weigel predicts the abortion debate will take center stage in the next Supreme Court confirmation.

Murder Isn’t a Nationwide Problem. Also in our pages, John R. Lott Jr. spotlights data showing that homicides in the U.S. are largely concentrated in relatively few areas. 

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