Quote of the Day: "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money" - Alexis de Tocqueville
Subject: A Question of Values
In 2005 Representative Tom Osborne of Nebraska thought the Central American Free Trade Agreement was a bad deal, but the Bush Administration threatened to punish his district in the next farm bill if he didn't vote for it, so Osborne caved and the trade agreement passed by one vote.
I mention this because Osborne didn't seem like a typical politician. He was a famous college football coach, not a lawyer or career politician. He served only three terms and ranked near the bottom in receiving special interest contributions.
But even he voted for what he thought was a bad bill, in order to protect something that a significant block of voters in his district valued. Most representatives do this. It's a major reason they get re-elected at such high rates, and also why government constantly grows.
This is both bad news and good news. The bad news is obvious, but there's a silver lining . . .
If a significant block of voters in your district starts telling your elected Representatives that the "Read the Bills Act" is very important to them, your reps will introduce or sponsor the bill, and vote to pass it, even if they would prefer to NOT live under its constraints. (Remember, Osborne would have preferred to vote against the trade agreement).
We may like to tell ourselves that the politicians do what they do because they're some combination of stupid and evil, and that may well be true in some cases. But the more fundamental truth is that politicians really do represent the values of significant blocks of voters in their districts.
Notice how sometimes Democrats get elected in "red" Districts, if they express socially conservative values. Likewise, some Republicans often achieve success in "blue" areas if they support socially liberal goals.
It's a matter of local values. Members of Congress have an incentive to represent the values of their districts. But the Read the Bills Act is not a liberal-conservative issue, so any member might introduce it. And the first co-sponsor might be from the other party. It's a trans-partisan issue. All we have to do is . . .
- Make "Read the Bills" a significant local issue by constantly pounding our reps about it
- And constantly recruit new people to do the same
Here's the latest reason to pound Congress . . .
In the last week before their Spring Break the Housed passed 22 bills totaling 826 pages. It's doubtful they read any of it. Please tell your reps to stop doing this. If you've used our Educate the Powerful System before, do the following . . .
- Go to the DownsizeDC.org home page http://www.downsizedc.org/
- Log-in using the log-in button at the right of the navigation bar near the top of the page
- Scroll down and click on the link for campaign number 1. Make Congress read their bills before voting (We recommend you follow these steps, but in case you need it, here's the direct link) https://secure.downsizedc.org/etp/campaigns/27
- Scroll down to the form at the bottom of the page and send your message
If you're sending your very FIRST message to Congress using our system, click on this link, scroll down to the form, fill it out, and send your message.
Use your personal comments to object to the fact that Congress passed 826 pages of unread legislation before their Spring break.
And then affirm how important this is to you by sending this message to your friends and Digging it on our blog.
You can also raise awareness on your blog or website by joining the Read the Bills Act Coalition. Membership will give your readers an opportunity to learn about the RTBA. In return, your site will be listed in the Coalition on our home page and will be mentioned in a Dispatch like this.You can learn more and join here.
This week we welcome two new members to the Coalition.
Thank you for being a DC Downsizer.
Assistant to the President
P.S.The following are the bills the House and Senate passed last week. The bills were passed by voice vote except where indicated. Roll call votes for the House are found here, and for the Senate here. The descriptions of bills are essentially taken verbatim from the Congressional Record Daily Digest. Page numbers of bills are based on the pdf display of the latest version from the Government Printing Office.
SENATE 2 bills, 127 pages
Greensburg, Kansas Recovery Extension Act: Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions was discharged from further consideration of S. 681, to provide for special rules relating to assistance concerning the Greensburg, Kansas tornado, and the bill was then passed. 4 pages
By 55 yeas to 43 nays (Vote No. 154), Senate agreed to S. Con. Res. 13, setting forth the congressional budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2010, revising the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal year 2009, and setting forth the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2011 through 2014 123 pages
HOUSE 22 bills, 826 pages
Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program Reauthorization Act of 2009: H.R. 1171, amended, to amend title 38, United States Code, to reauthorize the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program for fiscal years 2010 through 2014; 6 pages
Amending title 38, United States Code, to expand veteran eligibility for reimbursement by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for emergency treatment furnished in a non-Department facility: H.R. 1377, amended, to amend title 38, United States Code, to expand veteran eligibility for reimbursement by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for emergency treatment furnished in a non-Department facility; 6 pages
Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2009: H.R. 1513, to increase, effective as of December 1, 2009, the rates of disability compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors of certain service-connected disabled veterans; 6 pages
Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act of 2009: H.R. 1246, to amend the Public Health Service Act regarding early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of hearing loss; 8 pages
National Pain Care Policy Act of 2009: H.R. 756, amended, to amend the Public Health Service Act with respect to pain care; 16 pages
Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act: H.R. 20, amended, to provide for research on, and services for individuals with, postpartum depression and psychosis, by a \2/3\ yea-and-nay vote of 391 yeas to 8 nays, Roll No. 164; 12 pages
Wakefield Act: H.R. 479, amended, to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide a means for continued improvement in emergency medical services for children, by a \2/3\ yea-and-nay vote of 390 yeas to 6 nays, Roll No. 165; 8 pages
Making technical corrections to the Higher Education Act of 1965: H.R. 1777, to make technical corrections to the Higher Education Act of 1965. 56 pages
Dextromethorphan Distribution Act of 2009: H.R. 1259, to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to the distribution of the drug dextromethorphan, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 407 yeas to 8 nays, Roll No. 167; 6 pages
Vision Care for Kids Act of 2009: H.R. 577, amended, to establish a grant program to provide vision care to children, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 404 yeas to 17 nays, Roll No. 170; 10 pages
Health Insurance Restrictions and Limitations Clarification Act of 2009: H.R. 1253, to require that limitations and restrictions on coverage under group health plans be timely disclosed to group health plan sponsors and timely communicated to participants and beneficiaries under such plans in a form that is easily understandable, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 422 yeas to 3 nays, Roll No. 171. 6 pages
Discharge Petition: Representative Carter moved to discharge the Committee on Ways and Means from the consideration of H.R. 735, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide that penalties and interest will not be imposed on individuals who are citizens of the United States (Discharge Petition No. 2). 2 pages
The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act: The House agreed to the Senate amendments to H.R. 1388, to reauthorize and reform the national service laws, by a yea-and-nay vote of 275 yeas to 149 nays, Roll No. 169. 364 pages
Daniel Webster Congressional Clerkship Act of 2009: H.R. 151, to establish the Daniel Webster Congressional Clerkship Program, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 381 yeas to 42 nays, Roll No. 173; 8 pages
Capitol Police Administrative Technical Corrections Act of 2009: H.R. 1299, to make technical corrections to the laws affecting certain administrative authorities of the United States Capitol Police, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 416 yeas to 1 nay, Roll No. 174; 20 pages
Free Flow of Information Act of 2009: H.R. 985, to maintain the free flow of information to the public by providing conditions for the federally compelled disclosure of information by certain persons connected with the news media; 12 pages
Alien Smuggling and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2009: H.R. 1029, amended, to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act and title 18, United States Code and to combat the crime of alien smuggling and related activities; 16 pages
Miami Dade College Land Conveyance Act: H.R. 838, amended, to provide for the conveyance of a parcel of land held by the Bureau of Prisons of the Department of Justice in Miami Dade County, Florida and to facilitate the construction of a new educational facility that includes a secure parking area for the Bureau of Prisons. 4 pages
Federal Retirement Reform Act of 2009: H.R. 1804, to amend title 5, United States Code, to make certain modifications in the Thrift Savings Plan, the Civil Service Retirement System, and the Federal Employees' Retirement System 22 pages
Amending the executive compensation provisions of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 to prohibit unreasonable and excessive compensation and compensation not based on performance standards: The House passed H.R. 1664, to amend the executive compensation provisions of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 to prohibit unreasonable and excessive compensation and compensation not based on performance standards, by a recorded vote of 247 ayes to 171 noes with 1 voting ``present'', Roll No. 182. 16 pages
Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act: The House passed H.R. 1256, to protect the public health by providing the Food and Drug Administration with certain authority to regulate tobacco products, by a recorded vote of 298 ayes to 112 noes, Roll No. 187. 220 pages
Setting forth the congressional budget for the U.S. Government for fiscal year 2010 and including the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2009 and 2011 through 2014: The House agreed to H. Con. Res. 85, to set forth the congressional budget for the U.S. Government for fiscal year 2010 and including the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2009 and 2011 through 2014, by a yea-and-nay vote of 233 yeas to 196 nays, Roll No. 192. 62 pages