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Zer Netmouse
December 19th, 2005
05:36 pm

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haven't checked into this yet, but
Just got a note from the democratic lists (aka Kohn Kerry) saying that some Republicans have just attached an artic oil drilling proposal to the defense appropriations bill that is long past when it ought to have been approved. I *really* wish we had a federal rule that would prohibit adding things to bills that are not relevant to them.



If you ever needed a reminder of how broken Washington has become under one-party rule, we're getting it loud and clear in the closing hours of this session of Congress. Instead of sending a unified and unanimous signal to our troops on the front lines, Republicans are instead scheming to make a giveaway to the big oil companies their parting shot before Congress leaves Washington this winter. The Republicans' aim is sadly simple: mission accomplished for the big oil companies, mission unaccomplished for our troops, our environment, and America's real energy security.

In the very early hours this morning, Republican Senators, in a desperate legislative maneuver, have attached an arctic drilling proposal to the defense bill. They're putting oil companies ahead of our troops. Senator McCain got it right when he called this maneuver "disgusting."

If you agree, call your Senator now and help us get this special interest giveaway off the bill that is supposed to be helping our troops.

Call your Senators and tell them to stand up against this Republican abuse of power

The Military Officer's Association of America predicted this tactic last week: "We're concerned that insertion of any divisive, non-defense related issues at the last minute could further delay enactment of this crucial legislation. Both defense bills are urgently needed to support our military efforts. Congress is already three months late passing them, and needs to get off the dime."

Yesterday, a group of five high-profile generals sent a letter to Senator Frist that said: "It is not helpful to attach such a controversial non-defense legislative issue to a defense appropriations bill. It only invites delay for our troops as Congress debates an important but controversial non-defense issue on a vital bill providing critical funding for our nation's security."

Republican leaders know that drilling in the Arctic Refuge has nothing to do with this critical defense legislation. They know that just weeks ago, the arctic drilling proposal didn't have the votes to pass in the light of day because it's wrong for America. Now, the Republicans know where our generals stand on this matter. Will you join us in making them listen to our military?

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From:dd_b
Date:December 19th, 2005 11:31 pm (UTC)
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We have such a rule in Minnesota, but over 80% of our laws are passed in some kind of omnibus bill that at least some people think violates that rule. And I only know of one bill ever overturned on grounds of that rule (and it was less diverse than most bills passed). I'm reasonably sure that this all ends up meaning that nobody yet knows how to define the "topic" of a bill well enough to limit bills to a "single" topic effectively.
From:nicegeek
Date:December 19th, 2005 11:39 pm (UTC)
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One correction: It's the House that attached the ANWR amendment. The Senate has a germane-ness requirement, so these off-topic additions are made in the House, and then written into the Joint bill during the reconciliation conference. If you want to block this change, the only Senators with a say in the matter will be the ones on that conference committee. If it makes it through that committee, it will probably become law, because it then can't be amended, and few Congressmen are going to vote against funding the military, even if it means they're forced to approve ANWR drilling as a side-effect.
From:nicegeek
Date:December 20th, 2005 08:30 pm (UTC)
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I have to correct myself. It's the House that has the germane-ness requirement, not the Senate. In this case, the amendment was added by Sen. Stevens from Alaska. He was able to add it to the defense bill because he chairs the defense appropriations subcommittee.

So, at this point the choice before the other senators is to pass them both, or not at all.
From:yuggoth
Date:December 20th, 2005 05:29 pm (UTC)
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As irritating and potentially destructive as that aspect of our process may be, it is unfortunately also a critical negotation tool, one that is just as important as the "plea bargain" system in criminal justice (imagine how much more "fair" criminal justice would be without plea bargains, but also imagine how difficult it would be for DAs to do their jobs). Both Democrats and Republicans use it, this is just one particularly sensitive example.

In criminal justice, DAs make deals with criminals in which they receive lighter sentences in exchange for admitting guilt. In this bill approval process, politicians can build-in concessions in bills to the "other party" to get the bill passed. Without those concessions it would be difficult for one party to convince members of the other to vote in favor.
From:nicegeek
Date:December 20th, 2005 07:16 pm (UTC)
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I'm not sure that that would be a bad thing. There's something to be said for forcing bills to stand or fall on their own merits. The negotiation process you describe opens the door for a lot of backdoor wheel-and-deal. Gridlock might be preferable.
From:yuggoth
Date:December 20th, 2005 07:27 pm (UTC)
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You would be talking about near-permanent gridlock, but what's worse is that unpopular-but-good legislation would have much less opportunity for approval. It's a double-edged sword, as there are examples of extremely valuable legislation that has passed using these means.

In an ideal world every law would stand on its own merits to be judged fairly and accurately by elected repesentatives. In our world those politicans are often bought and sold, and we need a system like this to give the minority of "fair" politicians a chance to get good work done. Unfortunately it cuts both ways.
From:nicegeek
Date:December 20th, 2005 08:04 pm (UTC)
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I take the view that, on average, there's more bad legislation than good legislation, and "extremely valuable" legislation is almost unheard of, so near-permanent gridlock actually appeals to me.
From:yuggoth
Date:December 20th, 2005 08:05 pm (UTC)
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In that case, we may as well just have anarchy.
From:nicegeek
Date:December 20th, 2005 08:31 pm (UTC)
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Laws that were clearly good ideas would still get passed...murder and theft would still be illegal, there'd still be an army, and a court system; that's a long way from anarchy.

Also, a germaneness test is far from unknown in lawmaking bodies; the House has such a test (I was incorrect when I said it was the Senate, above). There's probably been a PolySci study on the effect of Germaneness tests on legislative bodies, but I don't have time to find one right now.
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From:foms
Date:December 20th, 2005 07:46 pm (UTC)
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Politicians won't vote on legislation based on merit.
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