[Editor's note: A version of this story appears in the September 2021 issue of Oil and Gas Investor magazine.]
One of the blessings of the U.S. Constitution is that it makes it very difficult to radically change federal law. Major changes to public policies enshrined in legislation must make their way through a labyrinth of checks and balances, including passage from both houses of Congress, presidential approval (or congressional override in the instance of a veto) and judicial scrutiny in the event of a legal challenge.
This labyrinth can be rather frustrating when you are trying to get something done. When I worked on Capitol Hill in the early 2000s, I can recall lamenting with my colleagues over the absence of strong domestic energy production incentives in an energy bill that was in conference between the House and Senate. That experience taught me to keep an eye on the long game, as a provision we added in the next iteration of the bill ultimately helped to prevent the federal government from thwarting the shale revolution before we even knew it was coming.
The system of checks and balances put in place by our founders was designed to prevent radical shifts in public policy from one direction to the other. Importantly, it can also force compromise between political parties, both houses of Congress, and Congress and the executive branch. Compromise is a rare thing these days in Washington because the two parties are so polarized. However, like the viewing of an old movie, elements of compromise have been on display this summer in the form of the much-anticipated infrastructure bill.