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Senate Has Failed To Act On 420 Bills Passed By House

This number is a little astounding:

The House ran another legislative lap around the Senate in September, widening the gap in the number of bills the chambers have passed this Congress to more than 400.

With only a lame-duck session remaining, the House since January 2009 has passed 420 bills that have sat on the Senate shelf, according to an updated list provided to The Hill.

(…)

Among the House-passed bills from the most recent period still awaiting action in the Senate are measures to audit the claims fund set up by BP after the Gulf oil spill and legislation to increase screening for diabetes. The Senate has also yet to sign off on naming post offices for George C. Marshall, the late actor Jimmy Stewart and the civil rights leader Dorothy Height.

Now, personally, I don’t find this to be a bad thing. If the Senate is blocking a bad House bill from becoming law, it’s serving it’s purpose. And, quite honestly, I think the nation will survive just fine without the Jimmy Stewart Post Office.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Now, personally, I don’t find this to be a bad thing. If the Senate is blocking a bad House bill from becoming law, it’s serving it’s purpose. And, quite honestly, I think the nation will survive just fine without the Jimmy Stewart Post Office”

    Depends on your definition of democracy and the meaning of elections in which the Democrats won decisive majorities in both houses and the presidency. All 420 bills were not bad bills and talking about Jimmy Stewart post offices is basically trivialisation of an important issue. But when you’re trying to defend the indefensible it’s any port in a storm I guess.

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  2. Just because the majority wants something, that doesn’t mean they should get it.

    That is, in essence, the principle that guided the formation of the Legislative Branch.

    is the Senate a roadblock ?

    Well, yea, it is. It was intended to be a roadblock.

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  3. Vast Variety says:

    It’s hard to know if they are bad bills or not if they don’t even get debated on the floor.

    As for the naming of post offices I’ve always found it odd that it takes an act of congress to do that. Why not just pass a bill giving local city governments the authority to name local federal buildings?

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  4. Vast,

    Because they’re closing post offices faster than people can come up with names ?

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  5. Vast Variety says:

    Hehe, that could be part of it.

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  6. PD Shaw says:

    Some of the House Bills were not intended to be acted on by the Senate; they are campaign material.

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  7. Tano says:

    “It was intended to be a roadblock.”

    Oh really? Could you please explain how that is?

    Because the ability of the Senate to operate as a roadblock is primarily a function of the filibuster, and anonymous holds. Neither of which are found in the Constitution, but rather are simply rules of the Senate. And they are not present in the rules of the Senate through any explicit attempt to make the Senate into a roadblocking institution. The filibuster, for example was very rarely used for the first hundred or hundred and fifty years. In fact, for most of that time, one needed _unanimous consent_ to end debate on any bill – which would give any Senator the right to stop all Senate business.

    Back in the day though, you did not have this maniacal effort to find and exploit every possible lever of power in the rulebook to get your way. Thus, even though the country went through periods of enormous conflict, including a civil war, it almost never was the case that any legislation supported by the majority was prevented from being enacted. That was an innovation of the early-mid 20th century, not a designed feature of the Senate.

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  8. Brummagem Joe says:

    Doug Mataconis says:
    Wednesday, October 6, 2010 at 10:57
    “Just because the majority wants something, that doesn’t mean they should get it.”

    Er so what are elections for Doug? So that the the minority can exercise a veto over legislative action even when the majority has won by a large margin. You know as well as I do that the minority has abused their position during this congress. Of course minorities have blocked progressive legislation before (abolishingJim Crow laws, votes for women, anti lynching statutes, clean air and water, healthcare extensions) no doubt you think that was all how the system was supposed to work.

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  9. If you don’t like the fact that the Senate exists, then change the Constitution.

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  10. Tano says:

    “If you don’t like the fact that the Senate exists, then change the Constitution.”

    Doug,
    For some strange reason my previous comment is in moderation.

    I asked you basically, what you mean by this statement. The factors that make the Senate a roadblock are not in the Constitution, they are simply rules of the Senate, and for most of the history of the Senate they were almost never used to actually thwart the will of the majority.

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  11. Rules that developed with time and tradition and which adhere to the Founder’s general intent that the Senate be the saucer that cools the populist passions of the House of Representatives.

    I have no real problem with the rules — except for the practice of secret holds, which I’ve written about before — but if there were any real support for changing those rules, it would be a relatively easy process for the party in power.

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  12. Tano says:

    “Rules that developed with time and tradition and which adhere to the Founder’s general inten…”

    Sorry Doug, but this is simply not the historical truth of the matter.

    As I pointed out, to the extent that the rules devleloped over time, they developed in the direction of lessening the ability of the Senate to be a roadblock – and the changes in the rules came about because the rules were beginning to be exploited for partisan gain, not because they had always been there.

    You need to take this history seriously if you want to invoke tradition as an argument. There are NO examples that I know of in which a bill was blocked using the filibuster for the first 100+ years of the Senate. There might have been the occasional threat, but for the most part, there was a recognition that the majority had a right to prevail. That is what being a majority means in a democracy.

    The purpose of the filibuster rule (actually the ABSENCE of a rule allowing bills to be brought up for a vote by majority vote) was to allow any Senator to make sure that their two cents were heard – to stop the proceedings if they felt they were being bulldozed, and to guarantee that they would be allowed to make their points. It was only much much later that some Senators, trying to exploit the rules to get what they otherwise could not, began to realize that the rule could be used to kill bills completely. This was NOT the original intent of any of the founders.
    If you think I am wrong about that, I invite you to find me some reference to that intent in any of their writings.

    “if there were any real support for changing those rules, it would be a relatively easy process for the party in power.”

    Actually, that is a matter of some dispute. There is a Supreme Court ruling from the 19th century that states that Senate rules can be changed by a majority. But there is also the sense that any rule change could itself be subject to a filibuster. So no, it is not necessarily easy.

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  13. Sookie says:

    Good. We don’t want them to act on most of the stuff the House sends through.

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