Policy Gridlock: Is It the New Regular Order?

By Wolfensberger, Don | Roll Call, October 9, 2012 | Go to article overview

Policy Gridlock: Is It the New Regular Order?


Wolfensberger, Don, Roll Call


Former House Parliamentarian Charles Johnson recently told a U.S. Capitol Historical Society audience that "gridlock is the regular order." In all fairness, he might have added that gridlock is interrupted periodically by erratic bursts of legislative activity guided by irregular procedures.

Taken together, this stop-and-go form of lawmaking using convoluted procedures has elevated irregular order to the new normal in Congress. This is especially so, as Johnson observed in his talk, when the two chambers are divided between the parties.

Political scientist Barbara Sinclair takes a more ecumenical view of the situation: Instead of characterizing Congress as dysfunctional and gridlocked, she attributes these perceived failings to our democracy working as it should.

In a Boston University Law Review article, Sinclair argues that the "much maligned partisan polarization" stemming from "the strengthening and internal homogenization of the political parties ... has made possible the development of a strong and more activist party leadership that allows the majority to work its will."

Obviously, when the two chambers are split between the parties, the battle of conflicting majority wills sometimes produces gridlock.

But, on balance, Sinclair sees the partisan sorting that has taken place in Congress as being beneficial to the institution because it has produced a system that is more open, inclusive, accountable and expeditious (at least in the House, to the majority party caucus).

She concedes, however, that this change has entailed costs -- namely the loss of a committee system once characterized by expertise, deliberation, bipartisan harmony and productivity. That was consciously replaced by Democrats in the 1970s because the bipartisanship that existed on committees did not always reflect the majority will of the Democratic Caucus.

This new partisanship did not start with Speaker Newt Gingrich (R- Ga.), as some have recently argued. He only pushed the accelerator.

In his Capitol Historical Society talk, Johnson quoted from his portion of the new preface to "Parliament and Congress," co- authored with Sir William McKay, in which he laments the "retreat further away from the collegiality, spontaneity, openness and compromise that characterized earlier Congresses" and the fact that "little 'institutional memory' remained among Members to enable recall of those practices and norms." Johnson went on to charge that the "increased partisanship and stalemate, motivated by the 'win- every-vote' mentality of House majorities," and implemented through a variety of internal and external forces, have all contributed to the current condition of the House.

The irony is that both parties, when in the minority, promise a return to the (old) regular order if they capture majority control. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Policy Gridlock: Is It the New Regular Order?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.