Law Making in the US - why like that?

We do have party whips, actually. They’re just not as powerful as in the Westminster system. They’re currently Dick Durbin (D) and John Kyl ® in the Senate, and James Clyburn (D) and Eric Cantor ® in the House.

Plus, there’s no tradition of the impartial Speaker. It’s the job of the Speaker in Westminster systems to enforce the rules of the House, and to do so in an impartial manner. If the Speaker thinks the bill doesn’t comply with the single subject rule, it’s ruled out of order.

As far as I can tell, there’s no equivalent to this in either House of Congress, where the Speaker/President pro tem are partisan positions.

There could be such a rule for either chamber without a constitutional amendment. Both houses decide their own rules and can change the rules with a vote. In the senate it takes 2/3 majority to change the rules and I don’t know what it would take in the house. The reason they do not is because the current process offers less transparency and thereby less accountability.

This is pretty much it. The vast rational majority of America is held hostage by the redneck minority. In the senate, especially, tiny states populated by a few hundred uneducated people count as much as NY or California. As a result, you have to buy off their votes.

Perhaps, but it’s not as though parliamentary systems are free of pork, graft, palm-greasing, baksheesh, and naked bribery.

All it takes is dishonsty plus power for this fact about what is obvious to become completely ineffective.

And since those with power tend to be dishonest, and since even in a democracy the rules are made by those with power, I do speculate that the crazy US way of doing things is practically inevitable for any democracy. The US stopped playing nice at an early stage, but I’d speculate (and it is just a speculation, but with reasons I’ve laid out) that the length of time a democracy exists corresponds to the probability that it starts sliding down into the US way of doing things (specifically with regards to irrelevant riders on bills).

This is utter and complete hogwash. The Virginia Plan, sponsored by the largest slaveholding state at the Constitutional Convention, called for a stronger lower house of Congress and representation in both branches proportional to population. The smaller states, mostly in New England, insisted on a strong Senate with equal representation by state.

That’s a pretty silly assertion. The British Parliament has been making laws for longer than the US has existed, and shows no particular signs of sliding down this slope. Nor are the other major Westminster-style parliamentary democracies in their infancy. I’m frankly astounded at how many posts in this thread are saying this irrelevant rider thing is an inevitable or even necessary feature of democracy. Others have quite rightly pointed out the real reasons - much lower level of party discipline, no tradition of impartial moderators in the legislature, and so forth.

Now, if you want to discuss whether the stricter party discipline is a net positive feature for Westminster parliaments, that would be a perfectly legitimate discussion. But it borders on the absurd to claim that a universal feature of Westminster parliaments is somehow impossible for or antithetical to democratic governance.


As has been pointed out in this thread, the UK works the same as I have been describing, have they “descended” to the US was of doing things?

By one argument, New Zealand has been a democracy longer than the US (we were the first country in the world to implement universal suffrage) yet we still have singular purpose bills. And anyway - how long are you talking here? Democracy has certainly been going for long enough for the descent you are talking about

I agree with bengangmo that the practice under discussion does not relate to any fundamental principle of democracy. Rather, it arises from the party structure in the US vs. that of parliamentary democracies, as RNATB and Grey have pointed out.

In parliamentary systems, MPs are elected by party and, much more so than in the US, are expected to vote in conformance with their party’s direction. So, the Government doesn’t need to add other items to a bill as sweeteners to win the votes of individual MPs.

In the US Congress, nearly every vote is a free vote, so the majority leadership can’t just present a single-topic bill and require its members to fall in line. If a member believes that a particular bill will be unpopular with his or her particular constituents, the leadership can offer to add unrelated matters that are likely to be more popular, in order to make the whole package more palatable.

By “democratic” I meant a system in which the people directly elect their representatives. It completely slipped my mind that that’s not how most democracies do things. I think you guys are right that the Parliamentary way of doing things avoids the problem of irrelevant riders.

New Zealand has a mixed member representation with about 50% of the MPs being elected by their constituents, Australia, Canada and the UK directly elect their representatives.

The initiative process in California, flawed though it is, requires that the initiative address one and only one issue.

Spain chooses the Congresistas by voting for party lists, the Senators by voting for each individual. Members of Regional Parliaments are chosen as party lists. Some parties have “vote discipline,” some don’t.

As it is even in Westminister systems, Bills cans be made so wide as to encompass a lot.

The Law Reform (Miscellanous) Act of 2010


"Whereas it is expedient to amend, reform, refine and modernise the the law relating to several subjects ".

And its not always done for malevolent purposes either. If you have a dozen statutes which are for the most part fine, but really need a few sections deleted, amended or added, instead of a dozen new acts make one new act.".

And Finance Acts are filled to the brim with stuff which would put the worst rider to shame.

Many states, including my state of Illinois, have a single-subject requirement, so the rule is certainly compatible with non-Westminster government. The provision in Illinois is:

Here are some court cases showing how the provision has been interpreted and enforced over the years.

Mind you, even with this restriction, Illinois is hardly a model of good government. The legislature is notorious for backroom deals, corruption, and insider favoritism. It just never takes the form of tacking a rider onto a completely unrelated bill.

Boy was I wrong: ignorance fought. I guess this time we *should * blame Massachusetts.

I was also going to bring up single subject rules in U.S. states. It doesn’t seem to be too hard to figure out what a single subject is; every now and then, state supreme courts throw out pieces of legislation for single-subject rule violations, but not so often that it becomes an unworkable mess. Part of the answer seems to be that “single subject” is taken to be pretty broad. For instance, everything I have seen in any of the HCR bills–insurance, nursing home reform, public heath corps–would likely satisfy the the Illinois single subject rule. I’m not into state politics enough to know how single subject rules affect the wheeling and dealing.

The reason this doesn’t really happen in countries with a Westminster system is that there’s no need for it. The majority can pass any bill it pleases, yes? So if the a member of parliament from Bumblefuck Western Australia wants a new cricket pitch or whatever, and the party wants to keep him happy, they just cook up a “Cricket Pitches for West Bumblefuck Bill” and pass it into law. They don’t need to add it in to the Defense Appropriations bill, because they can pass that bill too.

And both laws will pass, because the members are creatures of their parties, and unless the backbenchers are ready to toss out the party leadership they are obligated to vote the way the party tells them, or they’re out on their ear.

In the US system, each Representative and Senator may have a party affiliation, but they are independently elected. The parties may help them get elected, but they have independent power bases–witness the “Conneticut for Lieberman” campaign, where the Democrats decided that they didn’t want Liberman, but he ran as an independent and won.

No, that doesn’t happen … and given your expertise in a Westminister government, why would you post something of such monumental ignorance?