Lee Hamilton has a column in the Evansville Courier Press entitled Battles over bills can go on for years. The former Congressman discusses how passage of major legislation is only the beginning. After that, you have the less transparent business of the rule making process and the courts.
The devil is in the details; and all too frequently, federal legislation does not go that far into the details. Rather, they give a framework and it’s up to the regulatory agencies to adopt rules that flesh out that frame. One problem is that Congress, relatively speaking, operates in the open and under the spotlight; whereas regulatory agencies are much easier to ignore. (There is the old schoolyard put down, “you’re mama’s so broke, she can’t even pay attention!) Even if the the agencies do their business openly, only those with a pretty significant stake in the game have the time and resources to pay attention.
Former Secretary of State George Shultz once famously said, “Nothing ever gets settled in this town.” That is why, as you follow the course of health reform or financial industry reform or any other high-stakes law, it pays to remember that it can take years before it’s really possible to gauge the impact of legislation.