The Cromnibus Bill

A few notes for those who find themselves upset over how the “Cromnibus” was written/passed.

Writing the Bill

The deal was made by leaders of the House (Republicans), Senate (Democrats), and White House (Obama). So no one group is responsible for having ‘snuck in’ any secret provisions. This includes:

  • The provision increasing the amount of money that a single donor can give to each political party committee.
  • The provision loosening restrictions on certain banking transactions

Which is not to say that the rank-and-file members have necessarily taken the time to read the bill in it’s entirety. But suggesting that any of this happens in secret is misleading.

Regarding the amount given to each political party committee, this may actually be a good thing. The money is likely to make it to political campaigns in one form or another. If, on the margins, more of that money passes through the formal party organizations, that’s probably for the best. First because it is more transparent (formal party organizations have to report their donors) and second because (some believe) that this will promote pragmatism over ideological extremism.

Regarding the portion apparently written by Citibank, well, who did you think wrote the bills that Congress passes? We don’t elect people based on their legislative language writing skills. We elect people to vote on which legislative language to approve. They turn to other experts (staff, lobbying firms, corporations, non-profits) to draft the actual language of the bills.

 

Passing the Bill

In order to get to a vote on this bill quickly, the House needed approval from the chamber. When the clock ran out, the vote was 213-213 (so, it wouldn’t have passed). Then one House member changed his vote and the approval was given. I’ve seen some complaints about the timing, but the voting clock in the house is a minimum, not a maximum. It’s designed that way to make sure everyone has time to vote, not to punish late voters.

The approval was given entirely by Republicans since House Democrats were united in opposition. This despite the fact that many Democrats were willing to accept the bill as it was and many (more) Republicans were opposed to the bill as it was. That’s how leadership works in the House: Boehner and Pelosi are expert at getting their party members to vote with the party even if they may individually prefer a different outcome.

But the final bill vote broke more along ideological lines, with Democrats and Republicans closer to the middle voting in favor and those on either end of the political spectrum voting in opposition. Ultimately, Obama was able to split up the Democratic unity created by Pelosi, so then Boeher was able to pass the bill over the opposition of radical Republicans (whom he couldn’t hold together).

Now the test in the Senate will be whether Reid and McConnell can gather enough votes to avoid filibuster and pass this bill, even though each face opposition in their ranks. And there will certainly be those in each party who – like their counterparts in the House – both want the bill to pass and would rather not go on record as supporting it. With votes like this, letting a member vote “no” can actually be a political favor bestowed by leadership. The question will be, how many such favors can Reid and McConnell each offer, and in exchange for what?

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