I'm supposed to review and post these blog entries in a timely manner, but sometimes my brain wanders off somewhere and it doesn't get done. My apologies to you, our readers, and to the esteemed James Wilson, author of the report that follows. I'll try to do better. Honest. -- Perry Willis (Defective Blog Editor)
Welcome to the Sept 18-24 edition of Last Week in Congress
Members of Congress don't want to be in Washington right now. They want to go home to prepare for the November elections. That's why Congress had a 3-day work week, spending Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday ramming bills through so they could a) boast that they "accomplished a lot" and b) spend Friday campaigning. After all, why should they waste time actually reading and debating important bills? There's so much pandering and vote-buying to be done, there's no time to actually represent us.
While passing real bills, however, the House also passed several resolutions that, on their own, have no effect. In one, the House expresses its wish that cancer be cured by 2015. Well, I
want cancer cured by tomorrow, so I must be more compassionate than your Representative, right? The effect of these useless resolutions is that there was less time to consider real bills.
Like the 12-page H.R. 4844, the "Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006." This requires voters to have a photo ID as proof of citizenship, and imposes unfunded mandates on the states to provide such ID's. The feds expect the states to charge a fee for this program, but requires - and reimburses - states to issue ID's to those who can't afford the fee.
This is the next step in the REAL ID Act. The feds really, really want everyone in the country to have an ID. And the feds in effect imposed a poll tax. They got around the 24th Amendment
because they make sure those who can't afford it can still get an ID and vote. But the non-poor need a photo ID to vote, and are expected to pay a fee to get the photo ID. That's a poll tax.
The next bill the House passed was the 27-page S. 418, the "Military Personnel Financial Services Protection Act." This bill apparently "protects" military families from supposedly predatory and dishonest practices of insurance and financial services companies. Imposing even more regulations and paperwork will surely help everyone involved, right? Ri-iiiiiight.
Next up was the 34-page H.R. 6094, the laughably-named "Community Protection Act of 2006." As of this writing, no summary of the bill was available, but it looks like it will extend America's anti-terror gulag to aliens suspected of criminal activity or belonging to criminal gangs. A lot of discretion is placed on the Director of Homeland Security, and aliens "awaiting" deportation may find themselves incarcerated in America forever. I understand that illegal immigration is a concern, but must we behave like totalitarian thugs?
H.R. 6095, the 11-page "Immigration Law Enforcement Act of 2006" would re-affirm that state and local law enforcement have inherent authority to arrest and detain illegal aliens "for purposes of assisting in the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws." In other words, the feds admit they are a failure at enforcing their own laws and want help. It does appear, however, that border states are happy to oblige.
Finally, the House passed H.R. 4830, the 4-page "Border Tunnel Prevention Act of 2006." This law will make it punishable by up to 20 years to build, or permit to be built on your land, a tunnel crossing international boundaries. If you live on the border you had better install vibration detectors on your land to make sure no one is diggering underneath you, otherwise you may soon find yourself trying to tunnel out of prison.
The Senate's week was much quieter. It passed H.R. 5684, the 20-page "United States-Oman Free Trade Agreement." When the House passed it in July, I reported
it was 51 pages. Did the bill actually get shorter? No, this version, which is apparently the final version, is in much smaller print.
As I wrote
Oman is a dictatorship east of Saudi Arabia. We prefer real free trade, or at most uniform restrictions and (low) tariffs for all products from all countries. We don’t need pages of regulations, nor should we burden our country with obligations to another. Still, if this Agreement means fewer regulations and lower tariffs than we had previously with Oman, it might be an improvement.
So that's 20 pages of bills passed in the Senate, and 88 for the House. In terms of pages, that's not so bad - none of the bills are particularly long. But the importance of much of it - new standards for voting, subjecting aliens to indefinite imprisonment - called for much more deliberation and debate than was given.
To see the specific bills and resolutions mentioned above, or to see how specific members of Congress voted, click here for the House and here for the Senate. Roll calls are listed in reverse chronological order. To find the number of pages of a bill, we use the GPO PDF Display of the bill’s text.