Time to change the way Congress writes bills
The recent passing of the $1.9-trillion relief package by House Democrats exposes once again the corrupt method used routinely to ensure passage of legislation that is weak or politically biased. I'm referring specifically to the practice of loading up a bill with additional appropriations that have little or nothing to do with the stated purpose of the bill, lovingly known as "pork." This helps to explain why a bill like this grows to 591 pages.
It is estimated that only 9% of the funds are destined for actual COVID relief. It was apparently more important to Democrats to lard up the bill with more of their wish-list items. How about $350 billion to bail out mismanaged states, $12 billion for foreign aid, $135 million for the Endowment for the Arts? And how could they let any spending bill get by without something for Big Tech in California, specifically a Silicon Valley underground tunnel for $112 million?
One of the more egregious items was for Howard University, which will receive $35 million to cover losses due to the pandemic, the only university to be reimbursed for that reason. I'm sure it's just a coincidence that V.P. Harris is a graduate of Howard.
The unions certainly won't be left out. Funding for union pension plans will be to the tune of $86 billion. This money will go to about 10% of the 1,400 unions that have pension plans that are failing and projected to be unable to pay benefits to its members within 20 years. The taxpayers are once again forced to cover for gross mismanagement of pensions such as this.
Another coincidence is the gifting of $1.5 billion to Amtrak, even though it hasn't spent the $1 billion it received in the last relief package. That's the rail company that operates a high-speed commuter train serving the Acela Corridor, running from Washington, D.C. to Boston, with 16 stops in between. It probably helped that many northeast politicians use this service.
This process has been in place for decades and doesn't appear to be a major concern to Congress in general. Indeed, the party in power does most of the fattening up, and a lot of the items come out of the various congressional committees.
Recall the dirty dealings with the Affordable Care Act back in 2010. The Senate votes to pass were stuck at 59 until the famous Cornhusker Kickback was born. Nebraska was promised an additional $100 million for Medicaid if Senator Ben Nelson would provide the required 60th vote. Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu was treated to an extra $300 million for Medicaid for her vote. There was so much outrage over the Nebraska deal that the Senate eventually deleted it. This was the bill that Nancy Pelosi informed us had to be passed so they could see what was in it. Obviously, reading the bill was much harder than fattening it up to make it palatable to enough members for passage.
It boggles the mind that our representatives think we the people are okay with this method for making laws. The approval rating for Congress stood at 15% in December 2020. Somehow it has increased to 35% by February 2021. They shouldn't, however, be rejoicing over 35%.
It is way past time that a few brave representatives introduce legislation to address this ridiculous practice. After all, they might even help themselves by improving the public's perception of Congress and get that rating to even higher than 35%. It might even guarantee re-election, which seems to be the driving force behind everything our representatives do. However, I'm as optimistic about that as I am about term limits being enacted.