Congressional Tricks

I have had a lot of careers.  My longest was working as a lobbyist in our nation’s capital, trying to get better and more sane laws to govern the Internet.

I am proud of what I did in that job, one of the few jobs to be defined by the First Amendment:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  My job came under the clause of redressing grievances.

But in the two decades I spent in and around our nation’s capital, I learned three of the tricks that greedy and unscrupulous members of Congress use to garner support and line their own pockets.  Just for the record, not all members of Congress are stupid, greedy and corrupt.  About 1/3 of them are fine, upstanding legislators who live by their oath to “uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”  Another 1/3 are so greedy and corrupt they should be tarred and feathered before being driven out of town on a rail.  The final 1/3 are simply wandering around trying to do the right thing but not knowing how, which is how they come to rely on public opinion polls rather than what their voters want to vote on any issue.

All three groups  use the following three tricks to fool us common Americans, whom they consider too stupid to catch on:

1)  “I Promise to introduce the following legislation in the House of Representatives…”  Well, whoopee snort.  All kinds of bills get introduced in the House and are never heard of again, though the Congressman brags mightily in his or her home district.  If the bill is not introduced in the House and the Senate, with support in both, it is going nowhere.  Both Republicans and Democrats use this piece of fraud, but the crown goes to Newt Gingrich and his “Contract with America,” in which he promised to introduce 10 pieces of conservative legislation when the Republicans took control of the House in 1994.  Not one of them ever saw the light of day.

2)  Tack it onto an appropriations bill.  The Congress is required by law to pass 13 appropriations bills each year.  They don’t do that, because to vote intelligently on such measures would cost them votes and the support of lobbyists, so they generally pass only “continuing resolutions” that keep them safely in office.  But when an appropriations bill does need to get passed, they lard it up with every bizarre, unrelated piece of pork they can.  Though nearly everyone does this, the best example is Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona.  Having failed for years to get through a bill that banned online gambling as awful and immoral, he did manage to attach it to an appropriations bill meant to fund protection of US harbors and ports (except for Indian casinos, which were exempt; his contributors in other casinos; and state lotteries).  Of course, the World Trade Organization found the whole thing repugnant, and taxpayers had to cough up millions of dollars defending this stupid law and paying fines to other countries.

3)  Create a definition that has no meaning under the law.  The most current example is the effort to ban “assault weapons,” which have absolutely no definition and could be used to ban claw hammers.  “Assault rifles,” which are carefully defined to be military, fully automatic rifles, is defined as a class of gun but does not further the goal of some politicians to revoke the Second Amendment.  Hardly a new trick by sleazy politicians – we saw Rep. Henry Hyde do the same thing in the Nineties, when the US Supreme Court banned “obscene” communications and defined them carefully.  Since that did not meet the motivations of Congressman Hyde, he pushed through a bill banning “indecent” communications.  A term that had no legal meaning and could be defined any way Congress wished.  Hyde also introduced a bill later that year that deemed any information about abortion to be “indecent” communication.  It was struck down by the US Supreme Court, but after Hyde got his money from lobbyists.

You may note that the three repugnant members of Congress listed above are all Republicans, and may infer from that that I am a Democrat or otherwise have a liberal political agenda.  If you have read my other blog posts, you know that is far from the truth.  I am a conservative; I simply hold Republicans to a higher standard.  I expect Democrats, who follow a false and unworkable socialist doctrine, to be sleazy, corrupt and repugnant.  That is their nature, to take from those who work hard in order to buy votes for themselves.

I do not expect that from Republicans, who claim to be conservative but engage in the same behaviors as their more corrupt Liberal brethren.  For the record, I know many fine and honorable Democrats, and many fine and honorable Republicans.  I just wish more of them on both sides of the aisle would stand and be counted.  Today, it seems that few of them are.

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