If It Were Rational, Their Power Would Decrease
Theodore Gatchel suggests that one way to improve the function of Congress is to narrow the focus of each legislative item:
If the Democrats had broken health-care legislation into smaller, “clean” bills, each of which dealt with a single aspect of health care, President Obama might well have gained more of what he wanted, and Tuesday night’s results might have been very different. If the Democrats had included tort reform and letting insurance companies compete across state lines — both of which could reduce consumers’ costs — in their agenda, they undoubtedly would have received much-needed bipartisan support.
Gatchel notes that politicians dislike such an approach because it would make it more difficult to slip unpopular and self-serving measures into laws. It would also reduce incumbents’ access to deniability — claiming to have opposed unpopular aspects of bills, but pointing to positive aspects as the areas of focus. The extreme nature of ObamaCare’s legislative process shows the ultimate form of that reasoning; it became starkly the reality that legislators were pointing to a few positive intentions — regardless of practical likelihood — and insisting that they compensated for whatever might prove to be in the bill.
One should note, in counterbalance to Gatchel’s suggestion, that there are circumstances in which piecemeal legislation can be less effective, even incoherent, even harmful. On a broad scale, the example comes to mind of leftist regulatory schemes that favor large incumbent businesses deleteriously mixed with rightist free-market principles, creating a free rein for monopolistic powerhouses.
That danger could easily be mitigated, however, if bills contained provisions that required all of their key components to be passed individually before they collectively became law.