Avoiding the “comprehensiveness” trap

Yesterday, I argued that public consensus exists regarding the two major non-budgetary legislative issues of the day, immigration and guns. I added, however, that political consensus may be thwarted due to the use of “comprehensive” legislation to address these issues.

This raises the question of why Congress should tackle issues “comprehensively.” As a friend — a high-level congressional staffer and experienced Washington hand — recently wrote to me:

Nothing good comes of comprehensive bills. They are bad for democracy; they are bad for the cause of small government; they are bad for sound policy.

This explains, I think, why Democrats like comprehensive legislation. But why do Republicans play along? As my friend wrote:

Our [party] — the party of limited, responsible government — should simply not put its weight behind comprehensive bills. The House should stand up on those grounds.


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