Regular Order in Congress

Explainers | March 6, 2017

What does it mean for Congress to follow regular order, and how are Republicans interpreting it to undermining public transparency?

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Something you might be hearing a lot of these days is what’s called “regular order.” Basically what regular order means is “following the normal legislative process.” While that might seem pretty straightforward, and like something we should all get behind, the truth is some Republicans are interpreting regular order in an undemocratic way in order to fast track their harmful legislative priorities, and as cover for abandoning the basic principle of transparency.

So Is What We’re Seeing from Republicans Regular Order?

Well...Let’s Compare. When Congress debated the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), Democrats held 79 bipartisan hearings and markups over the course of more than a year. Now, we know that the GOP held public hearings for nearly 7 years to figure out how to strip millions of people of their health insurance, so perhaps they’ve convinced some people that regular order is happening. BUT (!) during those 7 years, they never marked up any substantive policy to “replace” the Affordable Care Act—only to repeal it outright.

With true regular order...

We would expect to see a bill introduced and referred to committees with jurisdiction. This text would immediately be made available to the public. Americans would be able to read a summary of the proposed bill in plain-language, and the GOP would schedule hearings to consider the nature of the individual policies proposed within the scope of the entire measure. For example, under true regular order, the GOP would hold hearings on how their proposed tax credits would impact the affordability of individual health insurance coverage.

What’s happening now is not that.

Right now, Republicans are scrambling because they know another Congressional recess is coming up. They’re only giving the public, and even other Members of Congress, a couple of days to review their Obamacare repeal legislation—and without an official cost estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (we explain more about the CBO here). They’re rushing their process for a reason: They know that if the public finds out exactly what Republicans are trying to do, the public won’t stand for it.

So what’s the rush?

It’s because they’re scared of you, the people, their constituents. Your pressure, especially during the February recess, is a key reason why the House Republicans are rushing this process. House Republicans want to get a bill through before they head home for the next Recess (April 8-23). They do not want to face you at town halls and other events in their districts and have to answer questions about their plans for Obamacare.

Demand transparency. Demand regular order for the process. Let your Member of Congress know you will not be ignored.