Slipping through Legislation: All Too Often Members of Congress Use Legislative Strategies to Secure the Passage of Harmful Bills That Would Otherwise Potentially Fail on the Congressional Floor
Benoit, Mary, The New American
Congress introduces many thousands of pieces of legislation each congressional term. Only a fraction of that legislation ever makes it to the voting floor, and even a smaller number passes both houses of Congress in order to be signed into law by the president.
Determining what laws are allowed to come into existence is not a random game of "eeny, meeny, miny, moe," but rather a carefully planned strategy by lawmakers, and oftentimes White House officials, that forces life-altering changes onto the American population. For instance, the Real ID Act, which was deviously passed by Congress in 2005 though not yet implemented, will effectively create a national ID card through the backdoor approach of imposing federal standards for state driver's licenses. When Congress passes laws, new threats to our economy, security, and sovereignty often arise.
The legislative branch has traditionally been the strongest branch of the federal government since Congress possesses all legislative powers. The president may wield his veto pen, and the Supreme Court can overturn unconstitutional legislation under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, but ultimately it is Congress that determines what laws are passed and what laws are not.
Not all bills stand an equal chance of passing into law. Some bills are almost guaranteed to pass. Such bills include emergency supplemental spending bills that allocate money toward emergency situations, such as the $52.8 billion that was overwhelmingly passed by both houses on September 8, 2005 (H.R. 3673) in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Or the more recent bill that authorized $250 million to reconstruct the collapsed bridge on Minnesota's I-35W. That measure passed 421-0 in the House and by voice vote in the Senate. Other pieces of legislation such as annual appropriation bills are also considered "must-pass" legislation and are often quickly whisked through the halls of Congress. These appropriation bills may include funding for education, energy, defense, homeland security, and more.
Other bills, even vitally important bills, never make it to the congressional floor for debate. One example of a much-ignored piece of legislation in the current Congress is Congressman Ron Paul's (R-Texas) American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2007 (H.R. 1146), which would permanently withdraw the United States from the United Nations. The American Sovereignty Restoration Act currently carries only two cosponsors and rests in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where it is likely to remain for the rest of the congressional term. Another bill that is vitally important in preserving American sovereignty is a resolution, "expressing the sense of the Congress," to prevent the United States from joining in the North American Union. The bill, House Concurrent Resolution 40, was introduced by Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.) and currently carries 27 cosponsors. Just as with Ron Paul's H.R. 1146, Goode's resolution is not likely to be called up for a congressional vote anytime soon as it is being held up in the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.
At times, pieces of legislation are introduced that will, for various reasons, never be voted on, or be dragged through what can be a long and tedious debate process--some for no good reason; others for just cause. It is at this point that some members of Congress implement tricky tactics to slip certain bills through Congress in hopes of preventing them from being rejected by the general public, or by Congress itself. Bills are sometimes attached to a "must-pass" piece of legislation or are voted on before any public debate can be carried out. Major pieces of legislation are signed into law before the American people, or even congressmen themselves, are made aware of the legislation and its provisions.
Bypassing Public Debate
On August 5, 2007, President Bush signed into law a bill to expand the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). …