It is increasingly hard for members of Congress to use the appropriations process to achieve their legislative goals. In recent years, party leaders — often but not always working with pivotal committee chairs — have become the main players in negotiating these critical spending bills. Centralization undermines the ability of individual lawmakers to influence how the government spends money, even when it affects their states and districts.
Since 2017, leaders in both parties in the House have often bundled several bills together rather than bring them individually to the House floor for separate debates. Packaging bills makes it harder for lawmakers to know or challenge what’s in the bills. What’s more, House leaders then typically restrict lawmakers’ ability to offer amendments, allowing only those approved by the leadership-influenced House Rules Committee. As members feel like they have less legislative influence, they reallocate their staff resources to representational functions — like constituent services and public relations — which, in turn, makes it harder for them to push back against their own party leaders and the executive branch.