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December 21, 2007

They Had All Year, And More

Last week, the House of Representatives passed 18 bills amounting to 1130 pages of legislation. The Senate passed 20 bills covering 1126 pages. These included an 870-page Defense Authorization Act that passed the House, and the 860-page Farm Bill Extension Act that cleared the Senate. (A full listing of the bills is at the Downsize DC blog.)

But that is child’s play compared to what Congress did this week. They cobbled together H.R. 2764, a $550 billion budget bill that funds the war in Iraq and most federal departments for the 2008 Fiscal Year. The version posted at thomas.loc.gov is 1,443 pages, but that doesn’t include another 2,000 pages of earmarks and other reports. The Senate passed the bill Tuesday night, and the House passed it Wednesday. This bill includes $14 billion in “earmarked” pork-barrel spending, and over $17 billion in so-called “emergency” spending that goes over the budget limit.

Congress had all year to pass shorter, separate spending bills for each department. And, truth be known, they still had all the time in the world. Congress was already overdue on the 2008 budget bills, because the government’s fiscal year started in October. But the government kept running because Congress had authorized a temporary extension of spending at 2007 levels. Congress could have bought more time by passing another extension, but they were in a rush to get the spending bills done before Christmas vacation.

Perhaps we’ve all been guilty, at one time or another, of doing shoddy work in our rush to put projects behind us and get on with our vacations. But most of us don’t earn six-figure salaries stewarding trillions of dollars of the people’s money. Congress knows the people don’t like pork. Congress knows that the “emergency” spending is fraudulent. Congress knows from prior experience that bad provisions sneak into large bills at the last minute. But Congress didn’t give themselves, or the people, time to consider H.R. 2764 before passing it.

Bills like H.R. 2764 underscore the need for the Read the Bills Act. If for no other reason, the Read the Bills Act would have given the people and members of Congress a full week to read and consider the final, amended bill before passing it. If a member of Congress responds to your request to pass the RTBA by saying that “most” bills are carefully evaluated and considered before they’re passed, tell them to explain H.R. 2764.

To find out more about the Read the Bills Act, click here.

And to tell Congress to stop passing bills like H.R. 2764 and to pass the Read the Bills Act instead, click here.

Also, please tell your friends about the Read the Bills Act, and consider joining the Read the Bills Act Coalition. The RTBA Coalition is an opportunity for you to direct readers of your blog or website to our Read the Bills Act page, and in return we will add you to our blogroll and announce your site in a Downsizer-Dispatch to 20,000 subscribers. To join, click here.

We should also point out that H.R. 2764 is entitled “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008.” But in four minutes of examination, we already found four provisions that impose law or make policy, but do not spend money or place restrictions on spending. We wonder how many more non-germane provisions we will find when we really have time to sit down and look at the bill. Downsize DC’s “One Subject At a Time Act” would prevent such provisions from hiding within an unrelated bill, and like the RTBA, will force greater openness and honesty in the legislative process. To read the One Subject At A Time Act and tell Congress to pass it, click here.

Next week we’ll have more on H.R. 2764, and answer the question of whether anyone had time to read the bill.

Thank you for being a DC Downsizer.

James Wilson
Assistant to the President
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

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 18 pages 1130 pages

Amending the Joint Resolution Approving the Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: H.R. 3079, amended, to amend the Joint Resolution Approving the Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; 45 pages

Authorizing appropriations for the San Gabriel Basin Restoration Fund: H.R. 123, amended, to authorize appropriations for the San Gabriel Basin Restoration Fund; 4 pages

Amending the Arizona Water Settlements Act to modify the requirements for the statement of findings: H.R. 3739, to amend the Arizona Water Settlements Act to modify the requirements for the statement of findings; 2 pages

Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act of 2007: H.R. 3890, amended, to amend the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 to waive the requirement for annual renewal resolutions relating to import sanctions, impose import sanctions on Burmese gemstones, expand the number of individuals against whom the visa ban is applicable, and expand the blocking of assets and other prohibited activities; 30 pages

Turrill Post Office Building Designation Act: H.R. 4009, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 567 West Nepessing Street in Lapeer, Michigan, as the “Turrill Post Office Building”; 1 page

Special postage stamp for breast cancer research for 4 years: S. 597, amended, to extend the special postage stamp for breast cancer research for 4 years. 4 pages

Amending section 3328 of title 5, United States Code, relating to Selective Service registration: H.R. 4108, amended, to amend section 3328 of title 5, United States Code, relating to Selective Service registration; 4 pages

Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act: H.R. 4343, to amend title 49, United States Code, to modify age standards for pilots engaged in commercial aviation operations, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 390 yeas with none voting “nay”, Roll No. 1144; 7 pages

John F. Kennedy Center Reauthorization Act of 2007: H.R. 3986, amended, to amend the John F. Kennedy Center Act to authorize appropriations for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; 4 pages

Extending the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to collect fees to administer and enforce the provisions relating to the “Do-not-call” registry of the Telemarketing Sales Rule: H.R. 2601, amended, to extend the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to collect fees to administer and enforce the provisions relating to the “Do-not-call” registry of the Telemarketing Sales Rule; 10 pages

Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007: H.R. 3541, amended, to amend the “Do-not-call” Implementation Act to eliminate the automatic removal of telephone numbers registered on the Federal “do-not-call” registry; 3 pages

Extending the trade adjustment assistance program under the Trade Act of 1974 for 3 months: H.R. 4341, to extend the trade adjustment assistance program under the Trade Act of 1974 for 3 months; 4 pages

Directing the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security (Transportation Security Administration) to address vulnerabilities in aviation security by carrying out a pilot program to screen airport workers with access to secure and sterile areas of airports: H.R. 1413, amended, to direct the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security (Transportation Security Administration) to address vulnerabilities in aviation security by carrying out a pilot program to screen airport workers with access to secure and sterile areas of airports. 7 pages

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008: The House agreed to the conference report to accompany the bill (H.R. 1585) to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2008 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, by a yea-and-nay vote of 370 yeas to 49 nays, Roll No. 1151. 870 pages

Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization: The House passed H.R. 4299, to extend the Terrorism Insurance Program of the Department of D1615the Treasury, by a recorded vote of 303 ayes to 116 noes, Roll No. 1150. 28 pages

AMT Relief Act of 2007: The House passed H.R. 4351, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide individuals temporary relief from the alternative minimum tax, by a yea-and-nay vote of 226 yeas to 193 nays, Roll No.1153. 28 pages

Over-the-Road Bus Transportation Accessibility Act of 2007: H.R. 3985, to amend title 49, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Transportation to register a person providing transportation by an over-the-road bus as a motor carrier of passengers only if the person is willing and able to comply with certain accessibility requirements in addition to other existing requirements, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 211 yeas to 180 nays, Roll No. 1155. 6 pages

Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008: The House passed the conference report to H.R. 2082, to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2008 for intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United States Government, the Community Management Account, and the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System, and for other purposes, by a yea-and-nay vote of 222 yeas to 199 nays, Roll No. 1160. 74 pages

SENATE 20 bills 1126 pages

Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act: Committee on Environment and Public Works was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 365, to provide for a research program for remediation of closed methamphetamine production laboratories, and the bill was then passed, clearing the measure for the President. 10 pages

Reauthorization of the Traumatic Brain Injury Act: Senate passed S. 793, to provide for the expansion and improvement of traumatic brain injury programs. 16 pages

National Capital Region Mutual Aid Agreements: Senate passed S. 1245, to reform mutual aid agreements for the National Capital Region. 4 pages

Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act: Senate passed H.R. 4343, to amend title 49, United States Code, to modify age standards for pilots engaged in commercial aviation operations, clearing the measure for the President. 8 pages

Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act: Senate passed S. 2271, to authorize State and local governments to divest assets in companies that conduct business operations in Sudan, to prohibit United States Government contracts with such companies. 22 pages

Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act: Senate passed H.R. 3997, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide tax relief and protections for military personnel. 60 pages

C. Clyde Atkins United States Courthouse: Committee on Environment and Public Works was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 2671, to designate the United States courthouse located at 301 North Miami Avenue, Miami, Florida, as the “C. Clyde Atkins United States Courthouse”, and the bill was then passed, clearing the measure for the President. 1 page

Public Health Service Act: Senate passed S. 1916, to amend the Public Health Service Act to modify the program for the sanctuary system for surplus chimpanzees by terminating the authority for the removal of chimpanzees from the system for research purposes, after agreeing to the committee amendment in the nature of a substitute. 4 pages

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: Senate passed S. 2484, to rename the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development as the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. 8 pages

Milo C. Huempfner Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 2408, to designate the Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Green Bay, Wisconsin, as the “Milo C. Huempfner Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic”, and the bill was then passed, clearing the measure for the President. 4 pages

Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs was discharged from further consideration of S. 1396, to authorize a major medical facility project to modernize inpatient wards at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and the bill was then passed. 4 pages

Ernest Childers Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs was discharged from further consideration of S. 1585, to designate the Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as the “Ernest Childers Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic”, and the bill was then passed. 4 pages

Lieutenant Colonel Clement C. Van Wagoner Department of Veterans Affairs Clinic: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs was discharged from further consideration of S. 2339, to designate the Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Alpena, Michigan, as the “Lieutenant Colonel Clement C. Van Wagoner Department of Veterans Affairs Clinic”, and the bill was then passed. 4 pages

Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act: Senate passed 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, to reauthorize programs under part A of title XI of such Act. 22 pages

FHA Modernization Act: By 93 yeas to 1 nay (Vote No. 432), Senate passed S. 2338, to modernize and update the National Housing Act and enable the Federal Housing Administration to more effectively reach underserved borrowers; 46 pages

Farm Bill Extension Act: By 79 yeas to 14 nays (Vote No. 434), Senate passed H.R. 2419, to provide for the continuation of agricultural programs through fiscal year 2012; 860 pages

Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act: Committee on Finance was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 3648, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to exclude discharges of indebtedness on principal residences from gross income, and the bill was then passed; 15 pages

Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act: Senate passed S. 2488, to promote accessibility, accountability, and openness in Government by strengthening section 552 of title 5, United States Code (commonly referred to as the Freedom of Information Act). 20 pages

Wounded Warrior Bonus Equity Act: Committee on Armed Services was discharged from further consideration of S. 2400, to amend title 37, United States Code, to require the Secretary of Defense to continue to pay to a member of the Armed Forces who is retired or separated from the Armed Forces due to a combat-related injury certain bonuses that the member was entitled to before the retirement or separation and would continue to be entitled to if the member was not retired or separated, and the bill was then passed. 10 pages

Arizona Water Rights: Committee on Indian Affairs was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 3739, to amend the Arizona Water Settlements Act to modify the requirements for the statement of findings, and the bill was then passed, clearing the measure for the President. 4 pages

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