Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was right in his Sept. 1 Washington Forum essay, "A charge to my fellow members of Congress," to call for a return to regular order in Congress. Getting there will require a reorientation of Congress's system of rules, procedures and precedents to focus again on the idea of true deliberation — especially at a moment when more than half of the members of Congress have not served in the institution long enough to remember a time when it did function.
Regular order yields real benefits both for the legislative process and comity in Congress. A more open amendment process is critical, as amendments are indispensable bridge-builders to bipartisanship and ensuring both parties have a stake in legislation. Also, Congress requires real debates to fully assess the nature of the issue at hand as well as to explore alternative approaches before reaching widely agreeable solutions. And regular order will reverse the trend toward centralization of power in the leadership by empowering committees, which is where bipartisanship is forged.
Olympia Snowe, Washington
The writer, a Republican who represented
Maine in the Senate from 1995 to 2013,
is co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center's
Commission on Political Reform.