Mad Lib Legislation

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Good to know that members of Congress continue to give careful, thoughtful consideration to the way they spend our money. Jim Harper explains the strange tale of H.R. 1586.

As we noted here before, this is a “shell bill.” It was introduced as one thing (TARP taxes), became another thing (an aviation bill), and is now a batch of spending policies. (Cost: about $125 per family)

The most recent version of the bill was produced when the Senate passed a “substitute amendment.” That’s an amendment that clips out everything in the bill and puts in all new text.

In the House and Senate, they often publish amendments ahead of time, and it looks like someone was in a rush to get the amendment together, because they left blank lines where the new name of the bill should have been.

Take a look for yourself. Down toward the bottom of this page in the Congressional Record, it says, “SECTION 1. This Act may be cited as the “_______Act of______”. (The Library of Congress’ Thomas reporting system picked that up as the “XXXXXXAct ofXXXX,” so that’s how it shows up on our site.)

Well, THAT’s the amendment they brought up and passed, so the new name of the bill is the “_______Act of______.”

That’s right. A hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars spending bill made its way through Congress, and no one even noticed that the damn thing didn’t have a name. Which also means you can probably count on one hand the number of lawmakers who actually know what’s in the bill—and still have a finger left over to let them know what you think of this nonsense.

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44 Responses to “Mad Lib Legislation”

  1. #1 |  BSK | 

    Does that mean we get to make up our own name??? If so, I think a contest in order. And once we have a winner, we should all call our Reps to ask about the bill using that name. It’s not like there would be any better way for us to identify it, SEEING AS HOW IT DOESN’T HAVE A FRICKIN’ NAME!

  2. #2 |  Marty | 

    most depressing thing I’ve seen this week…

  3. #3 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I wish all you people would stop whining about inconsequential shit like war and deficit spending and trivia about how no one in Congress reads anything they vote on. We need to focus on the real crisis in America which is that mosque down by the WTC site.

  4. #4 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Remember, no matter what you see…it is always much, much worse.

  5. #5 |  bbartlog | 

    Most likely, there are plenty of similar but less easily spotted cases where a bill is ambiguous and/or makes no sense at all (due to substitutions and references or what have you being botched). Which leaves the enormous federal bureaucracy as the de facto interpreter of the spending bill. Just the way they like it I’m sure.

  6. #6 |  Sean L. | 

    Gene Rayburn: “Boy, Congress was really busy this session…”

    Audience: “How busy were they?!?!?”

    Gene Rayburn: “They were so busy, they passed the BLANK Act of BLANK.”

  7. #7 |  Eric | 

    Jim did a good job of explaining how the Senate passed it on their way out of town (they won’t be back until September), and how for the President to sign it into law the House needs to pass an identical version of the bill. So this is not something that the House can fix by just adding a title like the “Creating Sustainable Affordable Families and Protecting Children Act of 2010” or something. They either have to call the Senate back or have the President sign the ________ Act of _________ into law.

  8. #8 |  perlhaqr | 

    Sorry, I’ve now run out of words.


    Jesus fucking meow, what next? Does Pres O even own a horse?

  9. #9 |  Stephen | 

    That one missed a fun opportunity at filibuster. Can you imagine

    “yes, I know I’m not saying anything but I don’t have to”

    “my filibuster consists entirely of blanks Mr. chairman.”

  10. #10 |  deadcenter | 

    Congressional MadLibs

  11. #11 |  Aresen | 

    I suppose it would be too honest to call it “The Congress Screws America Act of 2010.”

  12. #12 |  Joe | 

    This unnamed bill is especially egregious. It is also disturbing that legislation is typically so complex and lengthy that no one really gets to read it (other than perhaps a team of staffers who often break it down into blocks).

    In the 19th Century, laws fit on a single sheet of paper typically. Were people then just naturally concise, or does it refect a time where because things had to be hand written out or typefaced, brevity was just the norm?

  13. #13 |  Joe | 

    The message from Congress, “________________ you.”

    (fill in the blank)

  14. #14 |  Ben | 

    According to it did pass with that language in it.

    The House took action “On motion that the House agree to the Senate amendment to the House amendment to the Senate amendment” then the president signed it.

    First you stop bothering to read the bills. Then you stop bothering to write them. The next step is “An act to make the Congressional & Presidential intentions law without need to codify in a bill”.

  15. #15 |  Chris | 

    Seems to me that if we did away with all of this parlimentary wiggling where a bill starts as one thing and ends as another then we could choke off a whole lot of silly junk that comes out of Congress. Just forcing all the spending bills to actually come from the House would be worthwhile. We wouldn’t have Obamacare in its present form if the Senate hadn’t been allowed to take a completely different House bill and completely re-write it. I think they kept a couple of words (“the” and “a”) so they could claim it was just amending things.

  16. #16 |  PW | 

    Our nation has been buried in junk laws. This is what the professionalization of lawyers gets you.

  17. #17 |  BSK | 

    Maybe we should send letters to Congree with any potential troublesome words “omitted” and see how well they take to it. Maybe something along the lines of…

    Dear Senator,

    You are a ____. I’m want to _____ you. You make me want to ____. You better sleep with one ___ open. It’s a _____ world out there.

    How would they know if I intended the blanks to be filled in with “dick/kill/vomit/eye/dangerous” or “doll/hug/smile/window/hot”? I wonder if they’d view a letter like that with the same acceptability as they view a FRICKIN’ BILL in the same format.

  18. #18 |  Tom G | 

    Wasn’t there a law within the last couple of years that was discovered to have had its text altered between the time the House passed it, and the time the President signed the bill ? Whatever happened to that one ?

  19. #19 |  Tom G | 

    the House AND SENATE, I meant to say.

  20. #20 |  Kristen | 

    BSK…sending my _____ email off to Sens Webb & Warner right now!

  21. #21 |  PW | 

    Curious events and an equally curious arrival. Especially since libertarianism is so notoriously fond of lawyers. /sarc

  22. #22 |  Maria | 

    Fuck it, a new drinking game is about the only way I’m going to deal with this stuff from now on. I’ll flesh out the point system later, but I’ll start with 100 points and a shot for every ActofXXXX that occurs in congress.
    Additional shot for every additional X.

  23. #23 |  Bob | 

    Shit, why not just start bills totally blank, with the name “Spending bill” then as each legislator gets it, they just add in the pork they want for their district?

    what? That’s how it works now? Oh.

    Good thing I’m stockpiling Diesel Fuel and Cigarettes for the upcoming collapse of society.

  24. #24 |  Chris in AL | 

    Frankly, I hope Obama just signs the thing as is. It is probably the most honestly and appropriately named bill in US history. And I think it would go a long way towards making it clear to future generations just how pathetic, incompetent and ridiculous our government had become in the first decade of the new millennium.

    Our grandparents were called the ‘Greatest Generation’. Our grandchildren will view us as the ‘Short-bus stupid Generation’.

  25. #25 |  pris | 

    Radley, will you respond to this piece?

    Cato is (at least) 40% funded by oil industry?

  26. #26 |  Ira | 

    #24 – Article does not say CATO is funded 40% by oil industry.

    Learn to read please.

    You are not a victim.

  27. #27 |  Maria | 

    #24 And 50 points and two shots of rum for every reading comprehension fail.

  28. #28 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Jim did a good job of explaining how the Senate passed it on their way out of town (they won’t be back until September), and how for the President to sign it into law the House needs to pass an identical version of the bill. So this is not something that the House can fix by just adding a title like the “Creating Sustainable Affordable Families and Protecting Children Act of 2010″ or something. They either have to call the Senate back or have the President sign the ________ Act of _________ into law.

    Yeah, God knows they’d never break the rules.

  29. #29 |  Dan Danknick | 

    “It’s a cookbook!”

  30. #30 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    In 2008, CATO’s corporate sponsorship = 1% of its revenue that year, with no oil companies listed. /thread_hijack

  31. #31 |  Tom G | 

    Why is it Radley’s responsibility to answer charges against CATO, genuine or exaggerated ?

  32. #32 |  Kristen | 

    Radley, will you respond to this piece?

    Piece of what?

  33. #33 |  Sean L. | 

    “… or as every word in a sentence: ‘_____ the _____ing _____ers.’ ”

    My thoughts exactly.

  34. #34 |  Cynical in CA | 

    It doesn’t matter anyway — the government is controlled by bureaucrats. Elected officials are strictly for show.

  35. #35 |  Kid Handsome | 

    Per CNN, family of Kathryn Johnston to receive 4.9 million dollars from City of Atlanta.

  36. #36 |  Aresen | 

    family of Kathryn Johnston to receive 4.9 million dollars from City of Atlanta.

    I suppose it is too much to expect that it will be paid for out of the salaries of the cops involved?

    *stops daydreaming*

  37. #37 |  BamBam | 

    Update on Costco shooting in Summerlin NV

    No evidence released, delayed inquests, etc.

  38. #38 |  PersonFromPorlock | 

    I propose that this bill be called “The DeCoverly Act of 2010,” after Major _____ DeCoverly, a character in Catch 22.

  39. #39 |  André | 

    Five fingers is a fist.

  40. #40 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #35 Kid Handsome

    Per CNN, family of Kathryn Johnston to receive 4.9 million dollars from City of Atlanta.

    I like the way the Atlanta Journal Constitution characterizes what happened.

    Four years after rogue APD narcotics officers killed 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston during an illegal raid of her home, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has offered her family a $4.9 million settlement.

    Rogue narcotics officers, my ass. If the raid was simply misconduct on the part of rogue officers, they wouldn’t have disbanded the entire narcotics unit and started over. They were still firing people as late as last June over that event.

    Johnston was killed in November 2006 when a police drug unit tried to execute a “no-knock” warrant on her home, using information provided by an informant who claimed he had purchased drugs at from the home.

    More bullshit. There was no informant until the cops tried to get one to lie about it and take the fall. If there had been a CI, no cops would ever have been charged. They would probably have been given medals.

    I think the only thing that differentiates Atlanta from narcotics units in other cities is that the Atlanta cops got caught. The drug war is nothing but a scheme to generate violence, bodies, and news stories as a diversion to keep people from noticing that their life blood is being sucked dry by politicians. It certainly isn’t about good versus evil because it’s all evil.

  41. #41 |  Aresen | 

    @ Dave Krueger | August 17th, 2010 at 11:05 am

    The surprising thing is that somebody actually got fired instead of “paid leave.”

  42. #42 |  Andrew Williams | 

    I nominate the “Dog Shit Act of Never Ever.”

  43. #43 |  Cyto | 

    I’m surprised that this hasn’t gained any traction with the talking heads. This seems to fit the “Washington is out of control” narrative perfectly. You’d think that the Limbaugh and Hannity types would be all over this (since the opposing side is in power).

    It fits the theme for the first two years of the Obama administration (and the lame-duck Bush administration). This bill is SO IMPORTANT that you must vote for it right now! Today! By midnight! No, no, no… don’t bother reading it… it is far too important to read and debate the content! The time for debate is over! We must pass the bill now!

    We spent about 2 trillion dollars under exactly these circumstances in the last couple of years – and that doesn’t even include the healthcare bill.

  44. #44 |  Ace_of_Spades | 

    Blank Check Act of Forever? The fact that it has no name means nothing to me. It’s the content that makes me want to puke.