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Why Can’t Congress Get More Done?

Why can’t Congress get more good things done? I get that question a lot – and a big part of the answer is that Congress all too frequently ignores its own time tested rules of operation.

Those rules are called ‘Regular Order’ – a process by which every bill, amendment and idea is heard, debated and given an up or down vote. Regular Order fosters bipartisanship and cooperation as we find points of agreement toward the best solutions to tough problems.

Over the years, pressure on Members to spend an inordinate amount of time fundraising has left little time for real governing, and Regular Order has fallen by the wayside. There is plenty of goodwill on both sides of the aisle to get things done, but without Regular Order, the system works against us.

My seven-point Restore Democracy legislation to overturn Citizens United, remove outside special interest money from our elections and change the way we do politics in America contains an important provision requiring the U.S. House to return to Regular Order – and work five full days a week like everyone else with a full time job.

As I’ve repeatedly pointed out to my colleagues, Regular Order produces good public policy. For example, during the 113th Congress, we used Regular Order to write and pass the Water Resources bill that funds Great Lakes dredging and attacks invasive species, the Farm Bill with important new provisions to stabilize commodity prices, the Veterans bill to end the benefits backlog and expand veterans’ access to medical care, and the Defense Appropriations bill that contained my amendments to cut off wasteful construction and reconstruction funds for Afghanistan.

On the other hand, with Regular Order suspended during the last Congress, we were forced to vote on a $16.4 trillion budget agreement and a $607 billion Defense Authorization Act – both negotiated in secret by the leadership with no open debate. And make no mistake – speed and secrecy are no friends of good public policy.

This year, House and Senate leaders have promised a return to Regular Order. We’ve heard those promises before. Requiring Regular Order makes more sense than merely promising it – so we’ll keep pressing hard to enact our Restore Democracy legislation.