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It is Way Past Time to End Sneaky Legislation: Abolish the "Rider" and Non-Relevant Amendments

By       Message Stephen Osborn     Permalink
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ONCE again, it is necessary to call upon We the People to correct a deadly error in legislative practices. Everyone has heard of "riders" on bills and, of course, amendments are common. Politicians love both of them because it forces pork barrel appropriations and truly bad legislation into law. As an example, last year, an amendment was tacked onto an emergency funding bill for Katrina aid. The amendment gave Bush still more dictatorial powers in the event of another disaster, natural or man made. Did that belong in an emergency funding bill? NO!

Here is how the process works. Let's say that a representative comes up with a bill that solves the problem of Social Security funding. It is a perfect solution and worthy of a "yes" vote by every member of the government. So, Congressman or Senator Joe Blow attaches a rider to the bill that gives his state a multimillion-dollar defense contract, and Mary Smurf attaches a rider that authorizes the construction of a dam that will cost millions, and flood several thousand square miles of farmland and Native American sacred ground. Aaron Crudworth attaches an amendment that allows the President to bypass any congressional oversight on judicial appointments.

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Now this perfect bill comes up for a vote. Those that vote for it are real heroes! Those that vote against it are probably not going to be re-elected. However, all that junk added on to it also becomes law, so those that oppose the destructive dam, or won't vote to give the President even more power, or those that don't want to see the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Complex become more powerful have to vote against it, and are tarred with the brush of being anti-Social Security.

The above is an oversimplification, of course, but illustrates the problem. This has been going on for far too many years, but it is becoming ever more blatant and destructive.

What has to be done to stop these bandits in their tracks is for We the People to mount an offensive of letters, calls, visits, etc., as intensive, or even more intensive, as the one to end the occupation of Iraq...or to impeach the White House Gang. We have to insist that all bills introduced have to be single-purpose bills, to be debated and voted on for that purpose. All non-relevant amendments and all riders will not be allowed to be attached to any bill. I, recently, got a letter from one of my senators, bewailing the fact that she had to vote for a disastrous program because it was attached to a "must-pass" budget bill! Budget bills, especially the end-of-the-year emergency bills, collect riders like cow flops collect flies, because if they can stick them on, they are a shoo-in. The budget must be passed!

This should not be a problem...and would not be if the process was banned.

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It will have to be initiated by We the People, because "They the Congress" would rather have a place to hang their pork and hide their lousy legislation where the people won't see it.

I'm not a politician and I don't know how to start a movement, but if we could get this one going, many of our governmental ills would be cured. Any legislation should be single issue, debated as such and voted upon as such. If you want a pork barrel project, introduce a bill for it and let it be openly debated and voted on. Don't be allowed to hide it in a child care or education appropriations bill.
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Biobyte: Stephen M. Osborn is a freelance writer living on Camano Island in the Pacific Northwest. He is a columnist for the Populist Party website and has had a number of articles published internationally. He is an "Atomic Vet." (Operation (more...)
 

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