A small handful of congressional leaders meet with the President in secret behind closed doors and decide on crucial budget legislation which is handed down to a Congress that is expected to approve. Our elected representatives have no say in the legislation formulation and no insight into what is done in secret.
That is unpleasantly similar to the legislative process in a dictatorship where the ruler hands down the laws and the peasants are expected to be grateful.
It is also unpleasantly similar to the legislative process that was used to enact Obamacare, immensely unpopular legislation whose details were formulated in secret behind closed doors and few had time to read before being obliged to vote. Their leader told them they had to pass it to find out what was in it. We are still finding out many months later.
For other less critical programs proposed legislation is discussed in an authorization subcommittee in one house of Congress and, if agreed upon, goes to a full authorization committee for discussion and approval. If he committee approves, the legislation then goes to the floor for approval or amendment by the full body. The proposed program then goes to the other house of the Congress where it is discussed by an authorization subcommittee and, if approved, taken up by the full authorization committee. The legislation then goes to the floor for approval or amendment by the full body. If the authorizations of the two houses differ, and they usually do, the proposed authorization goes to a conference committee made up of interested legislators from both houses where the differences between the two houses are discussed and a common authorization is decided upon. The authorization then goes to back to both houses for their approval. Only after both houses agree to the exact same language is the authorization passed.
That process authorizes the executive branch to pursue the program but provides no funds for its execution.
The funding for the authorized program is decided by a process similar to the authorization process with appropriations subcommittees and committees now taking up the programs previously considered by authorization committees and the full bodies approving or amending the appropriation. Conference committees then resolve differences between the two houses and the appropriations bill then goes back to both for final approval.
This relatively lengthy legislative process allows time for the lawmakers to investigate the issues involved and to have hearings where expert citizens can testify to shed light on the potential good and bad consequences of the legislation.
But this lengthy and considered approach to adopting laws only applies to the more insignificant ones. Important things like debt ceilings deficit spending and universal health care are decided by a self-chosen few in secret behind closed doors with our elected representatives left out in the cold. There are no hearings, no opportunities for expert testimony, no investigations of potential ramifications and no time for thoughtful reflection on what is about to happen.
Is it any wonder Congress has such a low (6%) citizen approval rating.
But even with that low rating they continue their legislation-in-secret approach.
Next year we will have another chance to tell them what we think of their antics.