The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, November 27, 2004

Appropriations bills: the percentage in being a dumbass

It's been all over : major legislative snafu in letting through into the omnibus appropriations bill (the Consolidated Appropriations Act HR 4818) conference report a little provision allowing Congressional committee chairmen to snoop around citizens' IRS returns [1].

Now, today, we have Dem Rep Brian Baird of Washington bleating pitifully under the plaintive hed We Need To Read The Bills.

The sheeple of the 3rd District really got one of their own:
House rules for the 109th Congress should insist that members have a minimum of three days to read legislation before voting and, further, that any waiver of this requirement require a two-thirds vote of the full House.

Better keep shtum about Santa around this guy!

He does have one or two nice Memory Lane quotes:
The Republican Leadership Task Force on Deliberative Democracy stated the matter succinctly in 1993, "A bill that cannot survive a 3-day scrutiny of its provisions is a bill that should not be enacted...

Republican Rep. David Dreier of California, who is now chairman of the House Rules Committee, echoed this sentiment at the time, and criticized procedures that, he said, "create a breeding ground for special interest groups to take control over the legislative process." As a remedy, Dreier proposed then what I am calling for now: requirement of a supermajority in Congress to waive points of order if the three-day principle is violated.

The point that seems to elude Brer Baird is that the GOP were the minority party in the House at the time. Of course they'd want to maximise scrutiny!

Quick question for Baird: what did the Dems do about these goo-goo ideas? They had control right through till January 1995: what did they do to improve the quality of legislating?

Hint at the difficulty for civilians at getting at the facts of the (in web terms) prehistorical 103rd Congress: there are only two items in Google for Republican Leadership Task Force on Deliberative Democracy - quick quotes from Baird and Sharon buddy Tom Lantos relating to HR 4818.

House Speaker for the 103rd was Tom Foley - who, according to this, was also Majority Leader. What, I wonder, was the Democratic leadership's view of the supermajority proposal [2]? A Bronx cheer, I'll be bound!

  1. What we are talking about is ยง222:
    Hereafter, notwithstanding any other provision of law governing the disclosure of income tax returns or return information, upon written request of the Chairman of the House or Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service shall allow agents designated by such Chairman access to Internal Revenue Service facilities and any tax returns or return information contained therein.
    There is a side-issue over the reporting of the matter in the New York Times discussed over at Media Matters: durable URLs for the pieces of November 21, November 22 and November 23. There are certainly discrepancies in the reporting, some of them corrected in the last piece - but it hardly rises to close to the level of Judith Miller and Iraqi WMD.

    I've not looked into the details: but the explanation of Appropriations Chairman Rep Bill Young is clearly a little Thanksgiving humour:

    simply an attempt to exercise our constitutional stewardship of the I.R.S. budget request, with no intention to review or investigate individual tax returns.
    Presumably, they intended to dig for dirt - surely not for blackmail material?

  2. Deschler's Precedents material on the Three Day Rule.

    The Rule was apparently introduced by the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970. Previously, conference reports could be discussed on the day following their issue.

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