Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Own Post-Debate Fact Checking

I am completely and totally unqualified to comment in any way on the "facts," figures and statements about "who said what when" that were raised in last night's presidential debate.  However, with my Master's degree in Legislative Affairs (which hasn't really been very impressive until just this moment), I can say that there's one procedural fact that I saw as a little off.  In short, Mr. Romney doesn't seem to understand the basic logistics of how bills get introduced at the federal level.

Several times during the debate, he stated that President Obama had not "filed" legislation on Immigration Reform.  The term filed implies (at least in my mind) that the President can introduce legislation.  Or, at least, that there's a formal, constitutionally (or rules-oriented) process for the Executive to put stuff in front of Congress.

However, the truth is that although the executive can certainly suggest changes to law, he (or she someday) doesn't "file" anything with anyone.  Here's what the parliamentarian has to say about the executive's role in bill introduction:

In modern times, the ''executive communication'' has become a prolific source of legislative proposals. The communication is usually in the form of a message or letter from a member of the President's Cabinet, the head of an independent agency, or the President himself, transmitting a draft of a proposed bill to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate.
If you want to read all the intricacies of the federal legislative process, you can do so here, but I'm not going to suggest doing it unless you are getting course credit for it.  "Filing" is really a state-level procedure.

I know I'm missing the overall point, which is that President Obama said he would do something on Immigration Reform, but didn't.  And I haven't said anything about how the executive really can't unilaterally achieve much (i.e., that he needs Congress to take action).  And maybe Romney used the term "filed" to refer to that "executive communication." 

This is clearly a question of semantics, but for me it's a little like those movies filmed in D.C. where a character gets on the metro in D.C., rides to the next stop and gets out in the farthest reaches of Virginia or Maryland.  It's a detail that demonstrates a lack of knowledge about the city.  In this case, Romney's use of "filed" may not be a big deal, but it irks this Master in Legislative Affairs.

Watch last night's full debate below.

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