Friday, February 5, 2016

I Love This Idea

The problem:
Congress passes huge bills, like Obamacare or the recent omnibus spending bill, that contain hundreds of provisions, and occupy thousands of pages — or tens of thousands if you include the ensuing pages of regulations. These bills are so long that literally no one has read the whole thing. They’re not so much bills, really, as Christmas trees on which lobbyists and legislators hang their goodies...

Legislators, and special interests, have a vested interest in sticking together and being sure that the whole bill passes. Individually, most of these lousy provisions wouldn’t pass, but when banded together for mutual protection they can...

... Often, most of the provisions are written by lobbyists and inserted by tame members of Congress. The public isn’t really represented at all. That’s not an accident — it’s by design.
The solution:
... This month, Representative Mia Love, a Republican from Utah, proposed H.R. 4335: One Subject at a Time Act. If passed, the bill would officially limit subsequent legislation to covering one subject at a time, therefore blocking lawmakers from trying to cram gratuitous amendments into unrelated bills... It all seems like a smart way to keep politics a little more honest.
Yes it does, but...
That doesn’t mean D.C. politicians are going to go for it, though. (Some) will oppose it because they’ve personally benefited from the existing loopholes... (Others) aren't going to be keen on this idea since it would inevitably require more work... the process of voting on each topic one vote at a time would prove significantly more time consuming for members of Congress...
That would certainly cut into their boondoggles and reelection efforts.
It also doesn’t help that both major political parties participate in adding “pork” to bills that are considered “must-pass,” meaning that no one’s going to vote against multi-billion dollar budget proposals just because a politician snuck in $2 million for his town to have a government-funded water taxi service...

Love is not the first person in Congress to advocate for this type of change. This past summer, Senator Rand Paul introduced “One Subject at a Time” legislation from his end in the Senate, though his bill never made it through committee. A noted advocate for political transparency, Paul believes that making bills one topic at a time will allow citizens to better understand what’s actually being voted on..
He's right, of course, but that doesn't mean diddly-squat when it comes to the fat cats in D.C.
While Love has eleven cosponsors on her bill, none of them are Democrats. Despite this issue being nonpartisan in theory, it’s probably not something that liberals would push for while they’re in the minority in Congress. If lawmakers had to vote on each item in a budget separately, organizations like Planned Parenthood probably wouldn’t stand a chance, whereas Democrats can currently defend it as part of a bipartisan compromise in a larger spending bill.

As such, political analysts give the bill essentially no chance of passing. Maybe Love should try slipping H.R. 4335 into more popular legislation!
More on H.R. 4335 - it would:
Require that each bill enacted by Congress be limited to only one subject;
End the practice of attaching controversial legislation to unrelated, must-pass bills;

Require the subject of a bill to be clearly state in its title;

Make void in appropriations bills, general legislation that does not pertain to the underlying (appropriations) bill;
Make the legislative process more transparent to the public

Importantly, the bill also provides for judicial review, allowing a court to strike legislation that doesn’t comply.
Our traditional legislative process has gradually broken down over the years  with the growth of gigantic omnibus bills. Once the beltway sleazeballs realized they could get away with it, this all-inclusive CYA approach to legislation became the norm.
As Rep. Love notes, this is how we wound up with an enormous debt and with a Congress that few Americans respect.

Getting the bill passed is a long shot, but it damn sure is worth a try. I've already contacted my congresscritter urging him to support it. I strongly suggest you do the same.

Side note: here's a picture of Rep. Love (R-Utah). Not what I expected, but a great illustration that the republicans aren't a good ol' boys club.


Old NFO said...

I'll email mine too, for all the good it will do!

CenTexTim said...

All we can do is try...

Brother John said...

This isn't a new idea -- I've long advocated a Constitutional amendment limiting any act of Congress to five hundred (500) words.

Not pages.


CenTexTim said...

Brother John - no, not a new idea. But now it's a formal bill that requires congresscritters to go on the record (at least the ones in committee).