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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

James Madison, Unemployment, and Medicare

Roll Call reports:

The always-fractious relationship between House and Senate Democrats hit a dramatic low last week that resulted in Members leaving for the Memorial Day recess having failed to extend unemployment benefits or avert a pay cut for doctors under Medicare.

And while publicly, House and Senate leaders refused to assign blame, the behind-the-scenes story was far different.

The deadline for the benefits package had been looming for weeks. But all the advance warning was for naught as the lack of trust between the two chambers escalated and an anti-deficit-spending sentiment among rank-and-file moderates grew. House leaders were forced to strike about $80 billion from their bill, including COBRA health benefits for the unemployed and Medicaid assistance to states. But the bill only came together Thursday evening, and Senate leaders decided they had waited around long enough and headed for the exits.

Why is the House-Senate relationship always fractious? Because Madison meant it to be. As he explained in Federalist 51:

In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit.

The title of William F. Connelly Jr.'s new book says it all: James Madison Rules America.