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Summary of The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Part 2)

June 28th, 2010

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In 1975 the House implemented a policy which permitted referral of legislation to more than one committee, either to be examined by two or more committees at once or in a sequential manner, as a result of increasingly complex legislation being proposed which no longer fit neatly into a single committee’s jurisdiction. However, as portrayed in Sinclair’s examination of the legislative process, sequential referrals are no longer common following a 1995 rule, providing an example where H. R. 1 reverted back to a traditional process against the new legislative process featured in Sinclair’s Unorthodox Lawmaking. The first committee in which H. R. 1 received an assignment to was the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and it consequently, had the largest legislative role over other committees of referral. Once assignment has been received, a full committee will most often hold hearings, inviting interested people to testify in person about the issue and proposals to deal with it, as did the House Committee on Education and Workforce with the consideration of H. R. 1 on March 29, 2001 entitled “Transforming the Federal Role in Education for the 21st Century” with a witness list including Mr. Keith E. Bailey, Chair, President, and CEO of Business Coalition for Excellence in Education among others (“Transforming Federal Role in Education for the 21st Century”). Once such hearings have concluded and a subcommittee decides to act on the bill at hand, this legislative body marks it up, drafting it line by line, and reports this to the full committee, which then can accept, reject, or amend the bill. H. R. 1 as approved by voice vote on May 8th as the markup opened May 2nd by subcommittee, created a division among party lines. While Republican conservatives complained of alterations in the legislation departing from the President’s original proposition, Committee Chairman and Sponsor of the legislation, John Boehner agreed to a dramatic increase in authorizing funding for education and toned down a GOP “Straight A’s” proposal that would have let states spend federal funds for nearly any educational purpose as long as these measures achieved better academic results. Frequently in the new legislative process, Sinclair suggests, that after a bill has been reported out but before it reaches the floor, major changes have been worked out through informal procedures, such as was the case of the “Straight A’s” provision in which President Bush assured DeMint, supporter of the provision, that he was “looking at a different strategy to accomplish this,” after its specifications had been removed from subcommittee markup (Austin). Subsequent to surviving markup, one of the few remaining conservative proposals which involved private school vouchers had been stripped from the measure by a 27-2 vote as sponsored by Rep. George Miller within just a few hours of approval. The full committee of House Education and Workforce accepted these modifications and others on May 9th by a reported vote of 41-7 in a delicate compromise worked out by Boehner and Miller (Austin 8-5) with major provisions including an authorization of $400 million to help states design and administer annual tests (“House Approves Landmark Education Reforms”). From here, the adapted H. R. 1 was referred sequentially to the House Committee on Judiciary on May 14, 2001 under specification that the committee must report within one day’s time or face automatic discharge, which is exactly what happened on May 15, 2001 at 4:43pm as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was placed on the Union Calendar No. 38.

As per the basic structure of lawmaking in the House, majority party leadership schedules legislation for floor debate at the bottom of the Union calendar in the instance of major legislation. Sinclair argues however that the House has developed alternate methods of getting legislation to the floor to provide needed flexibility. “The primary ways of bringing legislation to the floor are through suspension of the rules and through special rules from the Rules Committee, both procedures that the majority party leadership controls,”(Sinclair 20), an action which allowed H. R. 1 to be brought to the forefront of House legislative activity during the spring of 2001. The Rules Committee in this instance allowed the measure to be taken out of order as cited in a statement known as a House Resolution, which also set the terms for the floor’s consideration, including how much time was designated for general debate, two hours, issued May 16, 2001 at 11:33pm. Additionally the rule may restrict amendments, waive points of order against what would otherwise be violations of House rules in legislation, and outline other special provisions to govern floor consideration. A restriction on amendments in H. R. 1 in the form of a modified closed rule as implemented in the House Resolution permits only amendments enumerated in the Rules Committee report to be offered (“House Rpt. 107-069: Providing for the Consideration of H. R. 1 The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001”) and falls in line with contemporary House measures which typically are somewhat restrictive to save time, prevent obstructionism, and eliminate uncertainty.

On May 17th, a majority of the full membership of the House approved the resolution specified by the Rules Committee and, thereby, resolved itself into the Committee of the Whole, a legislative body made up of every House member, but with more streamlined rules and quorum of one hundred where debate and amendment of the legislation takes place.

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