One of the biggest pieces of legislative poo-poo was on display this past week. It is a method of passing legislation on the shirttails of another piece of legislation. It works this way:
Senator Moo wants to get a special funding for a pasture project through the Congress but knows that he will have a tough time getting it done. So he finds a bill such as the "America is the Greatest Country in the World" (AGCW) bill. He attaches a rider containing the funding for a new pasture for his supporters back home in the Midwest to the "AGCW" and his legislation gets passed 100-0. I mean after all, which elected member of the US Senate would vote against America, especially in an Election year? And because of the vote, the cows back home think Sen. Moo is a hero.
This past week, that scenario happened regarding three financial issues: raising the minimum wage, the elimination of the estate tax and several tax breaks for businesses. It has been ten years since Congress has approved an increase in the minimum wage. Elimination of the estate tax would help those individuals with estates with more than 10 digits left of the decimal place. And who could argue against tax breaks for the small business person?
The bill was put together and guided by Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), who is not running for re-election this year but for President in '08. Frist said putting the three items together in one bill was the only way a vote on the minimum wage would come to the floor of the Senate while he was there. Obviously the Golden Rule, whoever has the gold makes the rules, comes to play in the government too.
The Democrats cried foul (rightfully so) but they have been of guilty of the same procedure when they were in power for decades. A press release from the DNC said: "Over seven million Americans can have a raise of $2.15 an hour by raising the minimum wage, but only if we give a tax cut to 7,500 ultra-rich people at a cost of $753 billion dollars."
In a procedural vote to stop debate on the bill, Frist came up 3 votes short of the 60 required. But Frist pulled another great move when he changed his vote. You see, when you vote in the minority you are enabled to seek reconsideration of the bill at a later time. So he can bring this bad boy back to the floor before the session is over for the year.
One opponent to the trifecta (three issues in one bill) was Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) "Under the Republican bill, Paris Hilton and her family will get $250 million, while the tipped workers (those that can legally be paid as little as $2.13/hour) in Hilton hotels will lose up to $5.50 an hour."
After the vote, Frist said his colleagues had lost "the chance to bring three very important issues to the floor for debate: permanent death-tax relief, extension of expiring tax provisions and a minimum-wage increase of more than 40 percent." Claiming to being on the holy side here, he claimed that the trifecta of issues were "vital to the economic security of everyday Americans."
Now whether you are a supporter of any of these bills or not, the question comes to me. If your legislation is worth it's weight in something more valuable than a cow pie at 100 degrees, than put the legislation through on it's own. Insist on an up or down vote on your legislation and then campaign accordingly.
But, nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! We can't do that. We have to play procedural games with Joe Six Pack, Mary Middleclass and Bill Millionaire. I guess this wouldn't be as big of a deal if the president had the line item veto and could pick and choose what he wanted to sign and what he wanted to veto.
Why is it so hard for politicians to see that the American public is sick of the games in Washington? I could even vote for someone in November who had a different position than I do if they would stop the games and call on his/her colleagues to do the same.
But that won't happen in my lifetime sorry to say. I guess in Congress as in the rest of the world, poo-poo appears. I just wish it wasn't on our ballots each November.