Tom Mann

Too Much of a Good Thing

In an 1814 letter to John Taylor, John Adams wrote that “there never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” That may read today like an overstatement, but it is certainly true that our democracy finds itself facing a deep challenge: During my recent stint in the Obama administration as director of the Office of Management and Budget, it was clear to me that the country’s political polarization was growing worse—harming Washington’s ability to do the basic, necessary work of governing.

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The big news about Congressional reform lately has been over on the Senate side, but I’ll remind everyone that Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein’s The Broken Branch, published just before the Democratic sweep of 2006, probably spent more time on the House. Will House reform return? I’ll begin with the punch line: since about 1975, the House of Representatives has been the one part of the US government in which party majorities rule. That’s not going to change in 2011-2012.

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There has been a lot of argument over whether passing health care reform or letting it die would offer the most attractive strategy for Democrats.

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The debate over the use of budget reconciliation to pass relatively small changes to a health care reform is an unusual one. Republicans keep charging that it's unprecedented. Experts on Congressional procedure keep debunking them. Here's an NPR story quoting Georgetown's Sara Rosenbaum explaining that reconciliation has been used repeatedly for health care changes.

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