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Congress OverwhelmedThe Decline in Congressional Capacity and Prospects for Reform$
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Timothy M. LaPira, Lee Drutman, and Kevin R. Kosar

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226702438

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226702605.001.0001

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Still Muddling Along? Assessing the Hybrid Congressional Appropriations Process

Still Muddling Along? Assessing the Hybrid Congressional Appropriations Process

(p.145) 9 Still Muddling Along? Assessing the Hybrid Congressional Appropriations Process
Congress Overwhelmed

Peter Hanson

University of Chicago Press

This chapter analyzes congressional budget capacity along two dimensions: the capacity of Congress to write appropriations bills, and the capacity of Congress to pass them. Congress currently follows a hybrid process in which appropriations bills are written utilizing a textbook process in which bills are developed by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, and an unorthodox method to pass them in which individual appropriations bills are bundled together into an “omnibus” package. But, this hybrid system is not in equilibrium. Formal methods for writing legislation, such as holding hearings and reporting bills from committee, are in decline and being replaced by informal, closed door processes. Interviews suggest that these changes to process are not themselves undermining the capacity of Congress to write a budget, but are adaptations to the ongoing disruption of legislating by intense partisanship, polarization and electoral competition. Interviews suggest that these pressures, rather than changes to process, are leading to a loss of expertise and oversight capacity in the Appropriations Committee.

Keywords:   congressional capacity, appropriations, omnibus, budget, congressional committee, hearings, Congress, Congressional Capacity Survey

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