Congress About To Pass ‘The ______Act of____’ (These Are The People We Elect?)

from the bang-head-on-wall-slowly dept

This coming Wednesday I was supposed to be attending the Congressional Internet Caucus’ State of the Net West event, but late last week it was announced that the event was postponed, because for only the third time in the past twenty years, the Speaker of the House (in this case, Nancy Pelosi) has called the House back into session early to vote on pending legislation. With Congress back in session the Congressional reps scheduled to attend the event couldn’t make it, and it’s not much of a Congressional Internet Caucus get together without Congressional reps. Anyway, the last time the House was called back early like this, it involved emergency legislation to deal with Hurricane Katrina. So what’s so important this time around? Apparently, it’s The ______Act of____.

Yes, The ______Act of____.

It appears that our friendly Senators were in such a rush to get this bill through that they forgot to name it. Jim Harper noticed this when the bill showed up as the oddly named The XXXXXXAct ofXXXX on his always excellent WashingtonWatch site. Apparently, the Library of Congress’ Thomas reporting system converted the underscores into X’s. And, yes, even The Congressional Record (pdf) notes that “This Act may be cited as the “_______Act of______”.

And don’t think the House can easily change it, either. If it changes the name of the bill, the Senate would have to come back and vote again. In the meantime, what is the bill? Well, it’s actually been quite a moving target. It was originally about taxing executives who received TARP funds. Then it was changed entirely to have something to do with aviation, and now it’s about an Education Jobs Fund. At one point, prior to its current non-name, it was called “The Aviation Safety and Investment Act of 2010,” but that’s got nothing to do with what it is now. If you look at WashingtonWatch’s own summary of the bill, it still says the bill “would impose an additional tax on bonuses received from certain TARP recipients,” even though I don’t believe that’s in the bill any more. As Harper notes in a different blog post, since this bill (by number only) is listed on the White House’s pending legislation page, anyone tracking that bill might think Obama is about to sign into a law a bill (which hasn’t been approved by Congress) about taxing TARP bonuses… despite that not even being close to true.

I honestly have no idea if the specific details of this bill, requiring the mad dash back to DC for House Members is a good thing or not. And I don’t know whether the taxes on TARP recipients or the Aviation Safety efforts were important as well. But all of this demonstrates a few key points: (1) if you’re trying to follow what Congress is doing by following bills, the fact that they just swap stuff in and out can make that pretty difficult. (2) For a bill that’s deemed so damn important, wouldn’t you think that at least someone involved with it would have taken the time to give it a name? Or were they really in such a rush to approve it that it didn’t need a name?

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