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The Globe's major findings

The Boston Globe investigation into back-room deals on Capitol Hill found that under the Republican-controlled Congress, longstanding rules and practices are ignored, and committees more often meet in secret. Members are less able to make changes to legislation on the House floor. Bills come up for votes so quickly that elected officials frequently don’t know what’s in them. And there is less time to discuss proposed laws before they come up for a vote.

Among the Globe’s findings:

  • The House Rules Committee, which is meant to tweak the language in bills that come out of committee, sometimes rewrites key passages of legislation approved by other committees, then forbids members from changing the bills on the floor.

  • The Rules Committee commonly holds sessions late at night or in the wee hours of the morning, earning the nickname "the Dracula Congress" by critical Democrats and keeping some lawmakers quite literally in the dark about the legislation put before them.

  • Congressional conference committees added a record 3,407 "pork barrel" projects to appropriations bills for this year's federal budget, items that were never debated or voted on beforehand by the House and Senate and whose congressional patrons are kept secret.

  • Bills are increasingly crafted behind closed doors, and on two major pieces of legislation -- the Medicare and energy bills -- few Democrats were allowed into the critical conference committee meetings, sessions that historically have been bipartisan.

  • The amount of time spent openly debating bills has dropped dramatically, and lawmakers are further hamstrung by an abbreviated schedule that gives them little time to fully examine a bill before voting on it.

  • The dearth of debate and open dealing in the House has given a crucial advantage to a select group of industry lobbyists who are personally close to decision-makers in Congress.

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