April 18, 2008
Senate underscores need for RTBA and OSTA
By James Wilson
Today's Downsizer-Dispatch . . . Quote of the Day

“As a rule of thumb, Congressional legislation that is bipartisan is usually twice as bad as legislation that is partisan.” - Thomas Sowell

Subject: Senate underscores need for RTBA and OSTA

Last week, the Senate passed two bills. Well, actually, they passed more bills than that, but they were combined into two.

H.R. 3221, was originally titled "New Direction For Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act" and passed the House last summer. The Senate didn't consider this bill at the time, but did pass, along with the House, the very similar "Energy Independence and Security Act" (H.R. 6) which was signed into law. But over the past two weeks the Senate dug H.R. 3221 from the committee graveyard, and "amended" it by replacing the entire text and turning it into the 157-page "Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008."

The final vote was taken after several dozens of amendments were considered over the previous week. After it was passed on April 10, it took the Government Printing Office seven days to put the new H.R. 3221 on-line. At the time of this writing, the Library of Congress still hasn't posted a summary of the new version.

Is it acceptable that the people don't know the contents of a bill until a week or more after it has passed? Shouldn't we instead get a chance to read bills a week before they're voted on, to give Congress our feedback? We don't believe a bill on an issue so vital to the American people as the foreclosure crisis should be rushed through without the public having a chance to review it. That's one reason has proposed the Read the Bills Act.

And that is also why we are asking you to tell Congress about the delay in getting H.R. 3221 posted on the Internet. Tell them final versions of bills should be posted a week before they're voted on, not a week after. Tell them the public should have a chance to make their views known. And tell them to pass the Read the Bills Act. You can do so here.

To increase pressure on Congress to pass the RTBA, please consider joining the Read the Bills act Coalition. By joining the Coalition, your website or blog will help spread the word about the Read the Bills Act. In return, your site will be listed at the blog and be announced in a Downsizer-Dispatch. Details are here.

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The other bill the Senate passed was the 322-page S. 2739, the Consolidated Natural Resources Act. It, too, was passed hastily on April 10. S. 2739 funds various programs such as the Forest Service and the National Park Service. It also authorizes a federal takeover of immigration policy for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

What does immigration in the commonwealth have to do with "natural resources?" I would think that the people of the Islands, who have no representation in Congress, deserve at least separate consideration of this issue, which is vital to their economy. And Americans on the mainland deserve legislation on natural resources to be considered on their own. Bundling unrelated subjects together in one bill allows Congress to duck responsibility. Their support for good sections in bills gives them permission to pass the bad as well. This makes a joke of representative government, and is one reason has introduced the One Subject at a Time Act.

Please tell Congress you object to combining different subjects in a bill. Tell them you don't understand what immigration in the Northern Mariana Islands has to do with natural resources. Tell them the people deserve to know where each member of Congress stands on both issues. And tell them to pass the One Subject at a Time Act. You can do so here.

To learn more about the bills Congress passed last week, scroll past my signature in the blog version of this Dispatch.

Thank you for being a DC Downsizer. James Wilson Assistant to the President 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. HOUSE 11 bills, 79 pages Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act of 2007: H.R. 1198, amended, to amend the Public Health Service Act regarding early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of hearing loss; 6 pages Wakefield Act: H.R. 2464, 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 1 nay, Roll No. 162; 6 pages Cytology Proficiency Improvement Act of 2007: H.R. 1237, amended, to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide revised standards for quality assurance in screening and evaluation of gynecologic cytology preparations; 5 pages Safety of Seniors Act of 2007: S. 845, to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to expand and intensify programs with respect to research and related activities concerning elder falls--clearing the measure for the President; 8 pages Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act of 2007: H.R. 2063, amended, to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretary of Education, to develop a voluntary policy for managing the risk of food allergy and anaphylaxis in schools and to establish school-based food allergy management grants; 9 pages Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act of 2007: S. 1858, to amend the Public Health Service Act to establish grant programs to provide for education and outreach on newborn screening and coordinated followup care once newborn screening has been conducted and to reauthorize programs under part A of title XI of such Act--clearing the measure for the President; 22 pages Reauthorization of the Traumatic Brain Injury Act: S. 793, amended, to provide for the expansion and improvement of traumatic brain injury programs, by a \2/3\ yea-and-nay vote of 392 yeas to 1 nay, Roll No. 163. 14 pages Congresswoman Jo Ann S. Davis Post Office Designation Act: H.R. 5489, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 6892 Main Street in Gloucester, Virginia, as the ``Congresswoman Jo Ann S. Davis Post Office'', by a \2/3\ yea-and-nay vote of 397 yeas with none voting ``nay'', Roll No. 176; 1 page Julia M. Carson Post Office Building Designation Act: H.R. 5472, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 2650 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street, Indianapolis, Indiana, as the ``Julia M. Carson Post Office Building'', by a \2/3\ yea-and-nay vote of 401 yeas with none voting ``nay'', Roll No. 177; 1 page William ``Bill'' Clay Post Office Building Designation Act: H.R. 5395, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 11001 Dunklin Drive in St. Louis, Missouri, as the ``William `Bill' Clay Post Office Building''; 1 page National Landscape Conservation System Act: The House passed H.R. 2016, to establish the National Landscape Conservation System, by a recorded vote of 278 ayes to 140 noes, Roll No. 174. 6 pages SENATE 2 bills, 479 pages Foreclosure Protection Act of 2008: By 84 yeas to 12 nays (Vote No. 96), Senate passed H.R. 3221, to provide needed housing reform. 157 pages Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008: By 91 yeas to 4 nays (Vote No. 101), Senate passed S. 2739, to authorize certain programs and activities in the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service, and the Department of Energy, to implement further the Act approving the Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union with the United States of America, to amend the Compact of Free Association Amendments Act of 2003, after taking action on the following amendments proposed thereto: 322 pages
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