MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A day-long gun control protest in the United States House is over. After more than 25 hours on the floor, Democrats ended their sit-in Thursday afternoon.
Lawmakers tried to force a vote on gun laws following the Orlando massacre. The Republican House speaker called the protest a publicity stunt.
Whatever the issue might be, this chaos in Washington left us wondering — why is it so hard to pass a bill? Good Question.
In the 1970s, Schoolhouse Rock taught kids about the challenges of turning a bill into law, but nowhere in the song does it talk about lobbyists or filibusters, and definitely not about sit-ins.
“Most bills introduced, die,” political analyst Larry Jacobs said. “You can think of Congress, and here at the state level in Minnesota, as a graveyard.”
Jacobs said more than 90 percent of bills introduced never go anywhere — they get buried in committees and subcommittees, mostly due to what Jacobs calls bipartisan battering.
“The partisan virus started in Washington, but it’s now spread all over the country,” Jacobs said.
During this session of Congress, only 2 percent of bills introduced have become law. When legislation is introduced, it’s put in a committee, and then it has to get a hearing.
“Only a very small number of bills that go to committees actually receive hearings and move through the process of being marked up and moved on,” Jacobs said.
Special interest groups, foundations, and lobbyists can serve as traps and trip wires along the way.
“They are warning those lawmakers: ‘If you vote for this, we are going to come back and defeat you in the next election. We are going to give money to the primary challenger,'” Jacobs said.
If a bill does move on, the House and Senate have to pass the same legislation before it can be signed.
“Even if Congress goes through that awful process and passes something, it goes to the President — who may not like it — and he can veto it,” Jacobs said. “The next time you see the President signing something, just look to the sky and wonder what angel is looking down with a smile.”
Jacobs said the party in control of the House or Senate doesn’t always get what it wants either. That’s because quite often politicians who are in the same party can’t agree on legislation.
Jacobs added that our Founding Fathers wanted checks and balances in government. So the system is designed to make it very hard to pass legislation.