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If It’s Smaller, Single-Issue Bills You Want, End the Filibuster

Wyoming’s two Republican senators, Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, are pushing for a rules change that would only allow an individual bill to deal with a single issue, in order to prevent the current practice of Congress passing massive omnibus bills. From Politico:

Enzi, Barrasso and their co-sponsor in the House, freshman Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), introduced a bill this week to change that because they believe the current system does not give members enough time to review the legislation.

“Every bill voted on in the U.S. Congress should be considered on its own merit in an open and transparent way before the American people,” said Schweikert.

The single-issue legislation rule is common practice in many state legislatures, including the home states of Barasso, Enzi, and Schweikert. A bipartisan group of house members from Colorado — Reps. Doug Lamborn, Jared Polis, Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton — introduced a similar bill earlier this year based on their home state legislature that also has a single-issue rule.

I’m sympathetic to the general idea. I don’t think massive, 2,000-page bills, which make it easy to hide special favors, is good for our Democracy. I would gladly see us return to the relatively short bills of only a few decades ago.

The problem is that a single-issue rule isn’t a solution and, by itself, will only make our legislature more dysfunctional.

One of the biggest reasons we have only a few massive bills is because just one single senator can abuse the Senate rules and force three separate allotments of 30 hours cloture time for any Senate action. Even assuming the Senate was in session 24 hours a day, that is less than 100 bills and nominations moved through the Senate a year. If small, single-issue bills could get a relatively quick up or down vote, so they don’t eat up several days of Senate floor time and need several compromises to get super-majority support, they would become much more common.

If If Enzi and Barrasso want more single-issue bills, the answer isn’t another layer of rules, but the elimination of the filibuster rules that cause much of the problem in the first place. Filibuster rules that the Republicans spent the last few months defending.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at