New thinking on the length of congressional bills

You probably are all aware that yesterday President Obama engaged in a lengthy televised discussion with Congressional Republicans on a whole host of issues.  It was a novel, and I’d guess positive, development in the way executive-legislative relations work in this administration.  Afterwords, House GOP leader John Boehner made some interesting remarks about how they found some common ground on some issues, which seems like a remarkable statement these days.  Then he said something that I found very interesting:

“We’re not always going to agree, but I think it did become clear in the conversation today with the president that there are issues and items that we do agree upon,” said Mr. Boehner. “But when they’re lumped together in 2,000-page bills and 1,000-page bills, typically what we find is a lot of things in the bills that we disagree with.

“And so if we can break these down into smaller bites, smaller bills, we will be able to find that more common ground, and find ways to work together.”

This stuck out to me because it’s something I’ve been thinking about for awhile – why are congressional bills so long?  Some probably have to be that way because of the complexity of the issue, but some of these would seem to be dictated by 1) pork, or 2) bad time-management, resulting in omnibus bills.  My inclination is to say Boehner hit on something important and useful here.

I’m wondering if an Americanist can summarize the thinking on bill length/complexity for me…?

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About Jake Wobig

I teach international relations and comparative politics at Wingate University in Wingate, North Carolina
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