How the House Speaker manages the House

Originally posted by me elsewhere on 11/01/2010

I was reading this article on John Boehner’s plans for the House in the event that Republicans retake it, and he becomes House Speaker. According to Boehner only five people in the House currently control the entire legislative process.

Bills are dictated by the speaker’s office, and then submitted to the House committees overseeing legislation of that type. So the members with greatest expertise in an area of legislation have no hand in crafting it and merely end up voting on whether or not to send the bill to the floor. Since Democrats are the majority on every committee, the committees’ roles have been reduced to rubber stamping the Speaker’s legislative agenda.

Boehner says that if he runs the House, he will empower committees to introduce legislation. However others are sceptical of his proposed approach. Apparently prior to Pelosi, former speakers DeLay and Gingrich also centralized power. Steve Elmendorf, an aid to a former House majority leader (a Democrat) explains:

… if you are in charge, you have to run the place, and by definition you run roughshod over the minority. Because of the nature of politics, we’re past the point where committee chairs get to do what they want.

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