With one party controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress, and having little fear of retaliation by the opposing party, the House leadership is changing the way laws are made in America, favoring secrecy and speed over open debate and negotiation. Longstanding rules and practices are ignored. Committees more often meet in secret. Members are less able to make changes to legislation on the House floor. Bills come up for votes so quickly that elected officials frequently don't know what's in them. And there is less time to discuss proposed laws before they come up for a vote.
'There is no legislative process anymore,' said Fred Wertheimer, the legendary open-government activist who has been monitoring Congress since 1963. 'Bills are decided in advance of going to the floor.'
Democrats are part responsible:
Democrats are arguably suffering from their own decisions: It was the then-majority Democrats who changed the makeup of the Rules Committee to give the majority more than a 2-to-1 advantage over the other party, acknowledged a Democratic staff member close to the panel.
"Our hands are not clean, no question," the staff member said. "But it's like a thin layer of dust compared to what the Republicans are doing."