February 14, 2007
Last Week in Congress
By James Wilson
When I do these reports, I usually don’t mention House Resolutions. Resolutions do not have the force of law, so nobody’s life, liberty, or property is harmed by them. Because they’re harmless, on the surface it would be nice if Congress did hardly anything but pass these resolutions. But the reality is that because Congress also passes so many bills that do affect us, it is a waste of time to even consider resolutions. And it’s not as if Peyton Manning - first pick in the NFL draft, seven-time pro-Bowler, 2-time league MVP and now Super Bowl MVP - would be unfulfilled if his Indianapolis Colts didn’t receive a congratulatory resolution from a bunch of politicians in Washington. But every week, the House usually passes several such resolutions; this week it passed eight. They normally pass by voice vote or unanimously. As to actual bills, the House was in a bi-partisan mood last week. Overwhelmingly bi-partisan. But the House is odd. Normally, when 99% of people agree on something, they are usually correct and the only dissenters are cranks who never get along with anyone. In Congress, however, when there are just one, two, or three “no” votes, you can assume that these dissenters are correct. There were two bills like that last week: H.R. 547 - Advanced Fuels Infrastructure Research and Development Act - 8 pages Congress wrote complicated pollution laws regarding sulfur content that were impossible to comply with. Instead of repealing the regulations, however, Congress is shelling out $10 million for research to try and find ways to do what the law requires. H.R. 365 - Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act - 8 pages $1.75 million will be spent to help states find ways to clean up meth labs that have been shut down. They are judged to be environmental hazards. One wonders how dangerous the labs would be if methamphetamines could be manufactured legally. There were, however, some bills that passed unanimously: H.R. 161 - Bainbridge Island Japanese American Monument Act - 5 pages H.R. 386 - Yakima-Tieton Irrigation District Conveyance Act - 4 pages H.R. 482 - American River Pump Station Project Transfer Act - 4 pages And other bills passed by voice vote: H.R. 742 - To amend the Antitrust Modernization Commission Act of 2002, to extend the term of the Antitrust Modernization Commission and to make a technical correction - 4 pages H.R. 434 - Short Term Extension of the Small Business Administration, as amended by the Senate - 1 page H.R. 238 - To repeal a prohibition on the use of certain funds for tunneling in certain areas with respect to the Los Angeles to San Fernando Valley Metro Rail project - 4 pages H.R. 356 - To remove certain restrictions on the Mammoth Community Water District's ability to use certain property acquired by that District from the United States - 4 pages H.R. 235 - To allow for the renegotiation of the payment schedule of contracts between the Secretary of the Interior and the Redwood Valley County Water District - 4 pages H.R. 512 - Commission to Study the Potential Creation of the National Museum of the American Latino Act - 8 pages Plus 4 bills naming post offices or other federal buildings - 16 pages total In total, the House passed 15 bills containing 70 pages of legislation. Each bill was short enough for each member to read, and each bill pertained to just one subject. These are steps in the right direction; it would be nice if all bills were like this. The Senate, in contrast, did not pass any bills last week. It has considered and passed only a few bills that the House has sent to them this year. This creates a greater likelihood that one day the Senate will rush through a lot of legislation at once, passing numerous bills by voice vote unread and undebated. In theory, we don’t mind the Senate’s slowness at this point; we like inefficiency in the legislative process. But we also prefer that Senators actually read and debate the bills they vote for, and we don’t see that happening. publishes this feature on weeks when Congress is in session. To see how your represenatives voted on particular bills, or to read the bills themselves, go here for the House and here for the Senate. You may also keep abreast of day-to-day activities in Congress by going to the Congressional Record Main Page and click for recent issues of the Daily Digest.
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