Legislative Sausage

How can any member of Congress be expected to cast an intelligent vote on a hodgepodge like this? And how can any voter make a rational judgment about a member of Congress who voted for or against this mess?

A major test of whether Obama’s new strategy will yield legislative results could come when the Senate takes up a job-creation bill, which Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) had hoped to introduce last week but which was sidetracked by a snowstorm….

The proposed package is expected to cost about $85 billion and would include a payroll tax break for companies that hire new employees, extensions of a variety of expiring tax breaks, and help for small businesses seeking loans. The measure also would extend unemployment insurance and COBRA health benefits by three months and provide a temporary adjustment in Medicare payment rates to physicians to prevent a scheduled cut.

The bill being crafted would reauthorize the Highway Trust Fund for one year, provide money for Build America Bonds and extend the USA Patriot Act, which is scheduled to expire at the end of February. The package also is expected to include $1.5 billion in agriculture assistance sought by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), one of the most endangered Democrats facing reelection in November.

The bill is full of things that would make good 30-second ads – “mean-spirited Senator Jones voted against unemployment insurance!” – and it may even include some necessary measures. But really, how can it be responsible legislative practice to put into one bill

  • extensions of expiring tax breaks,
  • extension of unemployment insurance,
  • a better deal for doctors under Medicare,
  • a year’s reauthorization of the Highway Trust Fund,
  • more money, more money, more money,
  • an extension of the Patriot Act (!),
  • a $1.5 billion favor to endangered Sen. Blanche Lincoln,
  • and all for the low low price of just $85 billion in the face of a $1.6 trillion deficit?

Senator Reid should be embarrassed. But this is the way Congress works once it decides to ignore the Constitution and legislate on virtually everything.