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Well, the  Republicans have had their way--but then, they are in the majority among the peoples's representatives in the House of Representatives. The Democrats lost last November. Granted, Obama has been a passive President, but then maybe he truly believes that the majority rules in a democracy, and the majority is in the House of Representatives. The majority in the House has exercised its power, the power of the purse, and it is good that this power is respected-even if the power was expressed by a reactionary, petty majority.

The only question for me is why this power of the purse has not been exercised more effectively in the past, such as when the Democrats are in power. It occurred to me that part of the explanation might be that the process of enacting legislation is fragmented. As I understand it, and I am not an expert on the legislative process, legislation is divided into three steps. First a budget is formulated, setting the broad expectations for legislation for the year. Second specific programs and funding for departments and agencies are authorized. Third, money is actually appropriated for the departments, agencies, and programs. At each step in this process it is possible to change the final result, making the budget irrelevant, and authorizations only promises of funding. It is a fragmented system that encourages manipulation.

This process can be contrasted with the process in Britain. Again I am no expert on the British legislative system, but from what I have gathered from my research for my book, my understanding is that when a bill for a program or agency is passed, it is passed with a statement about how much it will cost, and where the money is to come from. The three parts that exist separately in the US are passed together in one bill in Britain. This prevents manipulation, and more importantly makes every bill passed into a revenue bill, meaning that every bill necessarily has to originate in the House of Commons. If the same integration of authorization and funding existed in the US legislature, every bill would necessarily originate in the House, and the Senate could do no more than approve or disapprove of what the House does. To me this would weaken the power of the Senate, which what should happen. The Senate would be unable to originate any legislation.

I am curious to get some reaction to these observations from those who have more knowledge of the legislative process.

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