Tuesday, January 18, 2011

There is No Debate in Congress,

Ezra laments,

I'm watching the House debate on repealing the Affordable Care Act and it's ... depressing. Not the content, though that has its ups and downs. The structure. Each representative gets a minute to speak before they yield the floor. Few -- if any -- get to talk twice. It's insulting both to them -- they're members of Congress, after all -- and to us. There's no debate here. No exchange of views. No probing of weak arguments. Just a lot of quick and poorly written sound bites, one after the other, over and over again. It would be much better for both sides if they each nominated two or three members to conduct the discussion, and let them go at it for a few hours. I don't know whether people would watch that in greater numbers than they'll watch this. But those who were watching -- both in the chamber and outside it -- might actually learn something.
Well yes, that would be much better if you desired to have an informed and exhaustive discussion of the merits of legislation. If, however, your desire is to accumulate face time on camera and deliver pre-packaged soundbites to the media the current process is much, much better. 

1 comment:

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

One of the important developments of modern legislative politics, it is hard to tell when it happened, is the irrelevance of floor debate generally. This simply isn't where decisions are made and when votes are required, the entire process is scripted off stage.

Nobody's mind is every changed by what somebody says on the floor.

If Congress had an open meetings law, the entire system would collapse.