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Legislating crisis

In: The Timing of Lawmaking


  • David Kamin


For the last several years, the congressional budget process has jumped from self-created crisis to self-created crisis. Debt limit, shutdown, sequester, potential withholding of congressional pay, and others beyond that – all of these crises coming in quick succession and requiring Congress to take action to avert a problem. The result has been measurable damage to the economy and federal agencies. There is a common element to each of these crises. In particular, Congress sets an undesirable event to occur at a later time – hence, prompting the possible ‘crisis.’ This chapter represents an exploration of these devices, and a modest defense of some of them, despite the recent chaos in Washington. In particular, in legislating crisis, Congress may be addressing some of its other failings. These devices can serve constructive purposes by allowing Congress to not fully specify the way legislation will work in the future given the transaction costs involved in doing so; allowing it to better coordinate negotiations and, specifically, set timelines; and allowing it to then enforce its deals. Thus, in some cases, the threat of crisis may be better than the alternative of none. Keywords: timing rules, budgetary crisis, lawmaking deadlines, negotiation theory

Suggested Citation

  • David Kamin, 2017. "Legislating crisis," Chapters, in: Frank Fagan & Saul Levmore (ed.), The Timing of Lawmaking, chapter 2, pages 34-63, Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:elg:eechap:16931_2

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    Economics and Finance; Law - Academic;


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