After an introduction before the whole Bundestag, the bill is sent to a committee for debate. Unlike in the U. Congress, Bundestag committee chairmanships are allocated by proportional representation, so members of each party control some committees. The chairman of the budgetary committee, for example, is always chosen by the largest opposition party. Most of the debate over bills happens within committees, whose party breakdowns are proportional to that of the Bundestag as a whole, regardless of which party is chairing it.
Once passed out of committee, the whole Bundestag debates the bill and votes first on each section in it, and then on the bill as a whole. However, it is very rare for the whole chamber to reject a bill that a committee has endorsed. Once the Bundestag has passed the bill, it goes back to the Bundesrat for final passage. If the Bundesrat has major objections, it will force a Vermittlungsausschuss again, a conference committee , which will be binding if the bill relates to state policies.
Neither the chancellor nor the president can veto legislation. Despite the opposition's control of certain chairmanships, experts stress that opposition parties have very limited power to kill or obstruct the government's agenda. Jutta Helm , a Germany specialist at Western Illinois University, says that while the chairmanships give the opposition some control over bills' composition, "they cannot kill a bill or delay it for very long. Most reform efforts center on recalibrating Germany's federal system. The periodic mismatch between parties controlling the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, and the fact that state elections occur between federal elections meaning the Bundesrat's composition is changing mid-government has lead to gridlock.
Major initiatives — like the tax reforms proposed by the CDU government in the s and, indeed, reforms to the federal process proposed by the SDP government in the s — have failed in the Bundesrat, and fear of losing state-level elections has lead chancellors to be more hesitant about offering legislation that would upset the Bundesrat. In , a trade was enacted in which states received more power to determine civil servant salaries, environmental regulation and other policies, in exchange for reducing the number of bills which the Bundesrat must approve.
The change — the largest to the German constitution "The Basic Law" since its drafting in — is new enough that its effects are hard to evaluate. A second round of changes will focus on financial issues, and is expected to limit government borrowing while stopping short of requiring a balanced budget. Germany is, in many ways, the advanced democracy most similar to the U. Both have strong federal systems and a stronger-than-usual upper house meant to reinforce state power.
However, the German system take the federal purpose of its upper house more seriously than the U. For one thing, the U. While less democratic, this allows more real input on issues relevant to the states. Further, the proportionality of the Bundesrat serves as a reminder that there's a middle ground between abolition of the Senate and maintaining its current composition.
While constitutionally complicated, the U.
Finally, limiting the Senate's power to state-related issues would be similarly difficult, but would restore the institution to its intended purpose as a assurance that local concerns are met. The German system of proportional representation could also serve as a model, and indeed could be adopted by the House of Representatives without a constitutional amendment. While the House is fairly proportional as is, the German system would make it almost perfectly so, while not sacrificing the territorial connection between representatives and their constituents.
On the other hand, proportional representation would allow multiple parties in the House, which could make a mess out of the committee assignment process and require lengthy negotiations before a leadership is even in place.
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index : 8. Tied for 14th with Ireland; ahead of the U. The Economist Democracy Index, : 8. On "functioning of government," Germany also bests the U. NationMaster Tax Incidence Ranking : Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom : Below the U. Actually, the German mixed-member proportional system could offer a potential way of reforming the Senate.
Each state would continue to get a single senator so you maintain the constitution's requirement of equal voting representation per state , but you'd also elect the other half of the Senate via national or regional party-lists. The biggest roadblocks to this are the fact that there is no constitutional provision for electing parties rather than candidates, and the fact that putting cross-state electoral systems in place could be difficult, as nearly all U. At lunch today, I read a French newspaper citing Matthews' piece from last week, albeit in a unique manner.
There is a movement in France and in the UK seeking to make the legislatures of those countries function more like the American Senate and House: the Matthews' piece was used in the French newspaper to highlight perceived defects in the current French legislative system which, interestingly, Matthews considers positive. Posted by: rmgregory March 1, PM Report abuse. UK , which often get parliaments with blocs whose proportions are very different from the vote tallies.
Posted by: neversaylie March 1, PM Report abuse.
by Marcus SchÃ¤dlich
It says not state shall be denied equal suffrage in the Senate. Adding members that are not directly tied to individual states would probably run afoul of this. I think we should simply amend the constitution to say that the Senate can only delay the signing of a bill by the President if the bill has been signed by the House.
This makes no changes to the equal suffrage of states thereby circumventing the requirement for unanimity among states to change Senate representation. Thus the Senate would effectively operate as a House of Lords which it certainly seems to act like now, especially with Senator Bunning and his special elevator.
MPIfG Working Paper 05/8, Fritz W. Scharpf: Can German Federalism Reform Itself?
Posted by: scudderw March 1, PM Report abuse. I'd just like to say what an awesome series this is. Please continue it to cover as many countries as applicable, long after the US health care debate is over. Posted by: tyronen March 1, PM Report abuse.
When the Compromise Engine Sputters: Outcomes of Conference Committee Negotiations
As with the British monarch, the office surely does have reserve reponsibilities to keep the state running when the constitutional procedures hit a submerged rock. Though this is far more likely to happen in the shambolic British system than the tidy German one, designed by impartial Platonic Guardians aka the victorious Allies after WW II.
I think one of the biggest challenges in terms of reform is the way we view the U. Constitution as a sacred document, as the essence of America, and not merely as a practical way of setting out how political power is to be structured in our society. Arguments that the Senate is archaic, unfair, grossly ineffective, and unbefitting a modern liberal democracy just won't fly--after all, it's "what the Founders wanted" or "the American way.
Posted by: daw3 March 2, PM Report abuse.
The interesting part is that there is a high degree of permeability between the different levels of government. A state politician running for a federal office doesn't have to gamble everything on that election and can keep the state level office in case of defeat at the federal level.
This is often not the case in the US, where an unsuccessful run for president often marks the end of a political career. Also, permeability goes bot ways. For example, Gerhard Schroeder was a member of Bundestag from to , then joined the Landtag of Lower Saxony, became minister president in , and then became federal chancellor in Such a meandering career isn't strictly impossible in the US but it seems unusual. A consequence is that state and federal politics is quite interconnected in Germany.
The Bundesrat also forces state leaders to take federal responsibility. Posted by: carbonneutral March 8, PM Report abuse. To that end, companies were exposed to the concerns of stakeholders and urged to define responses to these concerns. The project involved major companies and transnational nongovernmental organizations as well as renowned experts in the field of intellectual property rights.
This paper briefly sketches the project and the process of the Dialogue. The products of the process are the opinions, both concurring and dissenting, that the participants reached on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge, subsumed in the final report to the WBCSD that emerged from the project. This paper also reviews documents Circulars from the proceedings, which further illustrate the dynamics of the deliberations, and the range and direction of arguments exchanged by the participants.
Environmental policy is considered a cornerstone of 'red-green' Social Democratic Party-Green Party politics in Germany. To evaluate its success, national path dependence as well as global policy convergence has to be taken into account. Therefore, we have chosen a conceptual approach that encompasses two dimensions: the scope of policy change, which can be either radical or only moderate, and Germany's international position as a pioneer or a laggard.
On this basis, four types of policy strategies can be distinguished: 1 moving first, 2 catching up, 3 staying ahead, and 4 lagging behind. This typology is used to analyze four case studies: energy policy, the ecological tax reform, climate change policy, and the national sustainability strategy.
The case studies show, firstly, that a policy change occurred in areas that were high on the Green Party agenda from the very beginning phase-out of nuclear energy, ecological taxation. Secondly, it is evident that policy innovations already tested in foreign countries facilitate policy change, because policy entrepreneurs can use them as a point of reference. Thirdly, Germany pursues multilateral strategies in areas where the country is a pioneer.
To guarantee Germany's position, other countries are pushed to adopt similar policies. Author's abstract An abbreviated version of this articles appears in Werner Reutter ed. Policies and Politics of the first Red-Green Government The study begins with an overview of network development, stability, functioning, and policy performance. This is followed by an overview of the Swiss and the Austrian national sustainable development, policies respectively, and a description of the Alliance in the Alps Region and the Austrian Climate Alliance, in particular, focusing on those organizations' respective development, aims, structure, and financing.
The development of both networks can be interpreted primarily as a reaction to a specific dilemma of sustainable development. Thus, these networks can be said to be problem-oriented. The Alliance in the Alps concerns itself with problems specific to Alpine areas, the Austrian Climate Alliance, on the other hand, concentrates on specific policy fields directly related to the problem of climate change. At present, both networks are in growth phase, with their respective memberships increasing slowly but steadily.
From country to country, however, development varies: in some countries, for instance, a fair amount of municipalities are network members, in other countries only very few communities are networked. In Austria, for example, two-thirds of the population live in municipalities that are member communities of the Climate Alliance.
Both organizations boast successful network structures.