[Politech] Weekly column: Sneaky Senate tricks when enacting legislation [econ]

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Wed Oct 25 2006 - 00:35:32 PDT

Here's an excerpt from my column. Jim's followup is appended below. --Declan


If this happened only rarely, perhaps we could forgive our elected 
representatives for gluing unrelated amendments onto a proposal that's 
destined to become law. (With a tight election just weeks away, how many 
politicians have the mettle to vote against "port security?")

But the problem is that the technique has become commonplace, meaning 
that even the sniping sessions that have come to define debate in the 
U.S. Congress are bypassed. Voters also lose a chance to learn how our 
supposed public servants vote on specific topics, rather than on a 
300-page bill with scores of unrelated components.

Which, of course, is precisely the point. Because politicians dislike 
being held accountable for their actions--specific votes can be compiled 
into embarrassing scorecards and inconvenient voting records--they 
prefer to lump everything together. The U.S. Senate Web site offers an 
official definition of the practice: a "Christmas tree bill," meaning 
unrelated amendments that adorn legislation. [...]

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Thanks for the WashingtonWatch.com Shout-Out
Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2006 08:45:19 -0400
From: WashingtonWatch.com <webmaster@private>
To: declan@private

Declan -

Thanks for the shout to WashingtonWatch.com in your sneaky-spending
column Friday.

Considering that Politechnicals are particularly interested in the
confluence of politics and technology, they might benefit from your
telling them directly of WashingtonWatch.com, particularly since we're
doing a little extra here around election time:


Election Special: Looking Back at the 109th Congress
Find Out What Your Representatives Have Done with Your Money

October 16, 2006 				
Most of the year, WashingtonWatch.com features cost information,
links, and discussion about the bills that are currently pending in
Congress.  But with a federal election happening November 7th, we are
switching our focus to the bills that have already become law.

This is your chance to learn more about what Congress has done over
the last two years.

On the home page, we are featuring recently passed laws ("Public Laws"
or "P. L."s).  Click on a law and you'll find that we've also added
links to votes in the House and Senate so you can see how your
representatives voted on the bills that matter to you.

Not every bill gets an up-or-down vote - many are passed quickly
without  putting our representatives on the record. To learn who your
member of Congress is, click here, and to learn who your Senators are,
click here.

Each Congress passes hundreds of bills but only a few make the papers
or television news - even though some result in thousands of dollars
of spending per U.S. family.

Spend some time on WashingtonWatch.com between now and election time
and you'll be a better informed voter.

WashingtonWatch.com is working to cut through the chatter, the sound
bites, and the scandals to help you stay informed about how Washington
affects you.


Jim Harper
(and lots of other affiliations that your readers know about)

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