Sunday, June 08, 2008

Bill Titles and Reality

Hopefully my one reader already knew this, but Congress constantly plays the misleading game of having pleasantly titled bills that make people want them passed, but hiding deep within excessive pages of bureaucracy the snakes that bite us as citizens. Not only do they misleadingly name horrible bills to get them to pass (The PATRIOT Act, Protect America Act, Climate Security Act), they also cram in completely unrelated legislation that clearly couldn't pass on its own merits. REAL ID didn't pass under its own bill, and in fact it was defeated when proposed on its own merits. It only passed when slammed into a must pass bill.

The Downsizer Dispatch for June 6th has more -

Subject: Unrelated bills rolled into one

H.R. 2642 was introduced in June, 2007 to finance military construction and Veterans Affairs. Since then, Congress has added 230 pages of amendments to what was once a 50-page bill. Among the additions is the "Iraq Supplemental" to fund the the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

H.R. 2642 is bad, but it could have been worse . . .

Two weeks ago, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to add a 100-page amendment granting amnesty to over a million illegal immigrant farm workers. However, Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez raised a point of order against the amendment, and Majority Leader Harry Reid agreed to remove it.

Perhaps they remembered the backlash when Congress added the REAL ID Act to the Iraq Supplemental in 2005. Perhaps they're feeling pressure to pass the One Subject At A Time Act (OSTA) and know that adding an unpopular amnesty bill into the Iraq Supplemental would only intensify calls to pass OSTA.

In any case, H.R. 2642 still contains numerous unrelated provisions:

  • "Emergency" funds for the FBI, BAFTE, DEA, Bureau of Prisons, and many other federal agencies
  • Additional funds for Katrina recovery and other disaster relief
  • A waiver of certain sanctions against North Korea
  • A study on the effect of the minimum wage on the Northern Mariana Islands
  • A law against unemployment insurance fraud
  • A requirement for states to implement an "asset verification program" for individuals seeking medical assistance
  • And dozens of other provisions unrelated to Defense or Veterans Affairs.
Congress normally passes several short, one-subject bills every week, so why couldn't they have voted on the above provisions as separate bills too? Possible answers include . . .

1. The provisions couldn't pass if voted on separately
2. Congress didn't want to give them due consideration

Sadly, all these unrelated provisions add up. According to Washington Watch, H.R. 2642 is going to cost the average American family almost $1,700.

Tell Congress they were right to pull amnesty out of the Iraq Supplemental. But tell them they shouldn't throw so many unrelated laws and spending programs into one bill. Tell them this undermines America's faith in Congress and is costly to taxpayers. Tell them to strip H.R. 2642 down to one subject, or vote against it. And tell them to pass Downsize DC's One Subject At A Time Act. You can do so here.


I wouldn't blog about it if I hadn't harassed my Congresspeople, and here's what I said -

Please introduce DownsizeDC.org's "One Subject at a Time Act" (OSTA). You can find the text of the legislation here:
http://www.downsizedc.org/osta-legislation.shtml

My personal comment to you:

Having no law at all is better than having bad laws. We encourage you to have the fortitude to let legislation fail, or to improve through the process and not tack unrelated bills on as amendments to things that will pass.

Please stand strong and fight against this duplicitous practice of sneaking bills that cannot pass on their own into other more popular bills.

We want legislation from legislators that don't try to pull a fast one on the American Public. That's exactly what is happening routinely in the halls of Congress. HR 2642 is currently being loaded up. I'll be watching for you to propose the striking of amendments from that bill and calling the bill to a vote with only one purpose left on the bill.

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