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The conservative case for Republicans to stop lawmaking in secret

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When congressional Republicans return from recess next week without anything to show for their party’s unified control of Washington, it will be time for them to attempt something radical: a return to regular order in both houses of Congress.

Regular order refers to the normal legislative process in which bills are introduced in their relevant committees, subjected to public hearings, debated, amended, and approved, before moving to the floor toward a vote by the full House or Senate.

Though Congress has steadily drifted away from making bills into law through the traditional procedures, the deterioration of legislating standards reached farcical heights this summer. As Republicans raced to fulfill their seven-year promise to repeal and replace Obamacare before leaving Washington for August, they bypassed committees in favor of a leadership-directed process in which legislation was being written in secret by a small group of staffers. This produced a bizarre situation in which not only were key senators unaware of what was in a bill they were about to vote on, they were even unclear on who was writing it.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s hope was that skipping the traditional steps of legislating would allow Republicans to send bills to President Trump’s desk on priorities such as healthcare and tax reform in rapid succession. McConnell believed it to be necessary because of the narrow window a new president has to enact major agenda items between his inauguration and the first midterm election season. The justifications Republicans gave for abandoning regular order typically involved pointing out that both........

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