DownsizeDC.org
February 22, 2008
Don't even know what they're voting for
By James Wilson
Today's Downsizer-Dispatch . . . Media Alert: Jim Babka will be on Straight Talk with Jerry Hughes at 3 PM Eastern today. See below the signature for details on how you can listen.

Subject: Don't even know what they're voting for

Last week the Senate passed the Conference Report of the 137-page Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 2082). The big media story about the bill is its ban on waterboarding, which will apparently prompt a Presidential veto.

If so, President Bush would veto the bill for the worst possible reason, but it may give Congress a fresh start. The problem with H.R. 2082 is that it could just as well be called the Don't Read the Bill Act. Or maybe, the Not Really a Bill Act.

You see, the bill authorizes funding for the federal government's various intelligence agencies, but it doesn't tell us the amount that will be spent. That's "classified information." Of course, we don't expect an itemized list of the cost of every intelligence operation, but the people - and apparently, most members of Congress - aren't even allowed to know the total cost of the bill. If there is a "national security" reason to keep that information classified, then "national security" can be the excuse to justify all kinds of corruption and abuses of power.

Why can't Congress even know the total amount they're spending on our behalf? Whose money is it, anyway?

And why would any self-respecting member of Congress permit this to happen?

Probably because this is their standard operating procedure. They normally don't know what's in the bills they pass. As long as government grows, they're happy. As long as they can say they're "protecting America" by passing bloated, secret intelligence bills, they can't be bothered with the details.

Congress has a responsibility to make sure Americans are protected, but they also have a responsibility to make sure Americans aren't looted.

If the Read the Bills Act (RTBA) was part of our political culture, Congress would be too ashamed to pass bills like H.R. 2082. They would insist that an appropriations bill would at least mention the amount of money appropriated. Under the RTBA, Congress will be more accountable to the people, which means they will insist that the Executive Branch be made more accountable to Congress. Not only will Congress have a more thorough knowledge of the bills they pass, but the people will know seven days in advance when a vote will be taken to let their voices be heard.

To learn more about the Read the Bills Act, click here.

And please tell your Representative and Senators that they disgrace Congress and betray the trust of the people when they authorize spending without knowing how much they're going to spend, like they did with the Intelligence Authorization Act. Also, please tell them to introduce and pass the Read the Bills Act.

There are ways you can help spread the word about the Read the Bills Act and DownsizeDC.org through your blog or website. You can join the Read the Bills Coalition. Advertise the RTBA and we will link to you on our site. And if you have a MySpace or FaceBook page, you can add us as friends.

You can learn more about the Read the Bills Act Coalition here
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And you can add RTBA Coalition code to your site here.

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As part of our campaign for the Read the Bills Act, we monitor how many bills, and how many pages of legislation, Congress passes. In the first two weeks of February, the House passed 15 bills amounting to 858 pages. The Senate passed nine bills amounting to 260 pages. You can read descriptions of the bills below.

Thank you for being a DC Downsizer.

Sincerely,

James Wilson
Assistant to the President
DownsizeDC.org

P.S. DownsizeDC.org President Jim Babka will be on Straight Talk with Jerry Hughes today (Friday) on the Accent Radio Network and more than 15 stations. This is a regular (weekly) appearance, and far from scripted. Jim never knows what to expect and some incredible conversations occur here. Jim's hour-long appearance begins at 3:05 PM Eastern time (2:05 PM Central, 1:05 PM Mountain, 12:05 PM Pacific). To listen, go here. The toll-free call-in number is: 1-866-222-2368 The email is: Jerry at AccentRadio dot com The following are the bills the House and Senate passed in the first two weeks of February. The bills were passed by voice vote except where indicated. Roll call votes for the House are found here, and for the Senate here. The descriptions of bills are essentially taken verbatim from the Congressional Record Daily Digest. Page numbers of bills are based on the pdf display of the latest version from the Government Printing Office. Feb 4-9 Senate 4 bills, 17 pages Preserving Existing Judgeships: Senate passed S. 550, to preserve existing judgeships on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. 2 pages Lease Extensions: Committee on Indian Affairs was discharged from further consideration of S. 2457, to provide for extensions of leases of certain land by the Mashantucket Pequot (Western) Tribe, and the bill was then passed. 3 pages Do-Not-Call Improvement Act: Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 3541, to amend the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act to eliminate the automatic removal of telephone numbers registered on the Federal ``do-not-call'' registry, and the bill was then passed, clearing the measure for the President. 2 pages Recovery Rebates and Economic Stimulus for the American People Act: By 81 yeas to 16 nays (Vote No. 10), Senate passed H.R. 5140, to provide economic stimulus through recovery rebates to individuals, incentives for business investment, and an increase in conforming and FHA loan limits. 10 pages HOUSE 4 bills, 812 pages Do-Not-Call Registry Fee Extension Act of 2007: S. 781, to extend the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to collect Do-Not-Call Registry fees to fiscal years after fiscal year 2007--clearing the measure for the President. 2 pages Extending for one year parity in the application of certain limits to mental health benefits: H.R. 4848, amended, to extend for one year parity in the application of certain limits to mental health benefits by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 384 yeas to 23 nays, Roll No. 35; 8 pages College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007: The House passed H.R. 4137, to amend and extend the Higher Education Act of 1965, by a yea-and-nay vote of 354 yeas to 58 nays, Roll No. 40. 792 pages Recovery Rebates and Economic Stimulus for the American People Act of 2008: The House agreed to the Senate amendment to H.R. 5140, to provide economic stimulus through recovery rebates to individuals, incentives for business investment, and an increase in conforming and FHA loan limits, by a yea-and-nay vote of 380 yeas to 34 nays, Roll No. 42--clearing the measure for the President. 10 pages Feb 11-17 SENATE 5 bills, 243 pages Combat Methamphetamine Enhancement Act: Committee on the Judiciary was discharged from further consideration of S. 2071, to enhance the ability to combat methamphetamine, and the bill was then passed, 5 pages RESTORE Act: Senate passed H.R. 3773, to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to establish a procedure for authorizing certain acquisitions of foreign intelligence, after striking all after the enacting clause and inserting in lieu thereof, the text of S. 2248, Senate companion measure. FISA Amendments Act: By 68 yeas to 29 nays (Vote No. 20), Senate passed S. 2248, to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, to modernize and streamline the provisions of that Act, 94 pages Airport and Airway Extension Act: Senate passed H.R. 5270, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend the funding and expenditure authority of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, clearing the measure for the President. 3 pages Intelligence Authorization Act--Conference Report: By 51 yeas to 45 nays (Vote No.22), Senate agreed to the conference report to accompany H.R. 2082, to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2008 for intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United States Government, the Community Management Account, and the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System, clearing the measure for the President. 137 pages K.T. Safety Act: Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 1216, to direct the Secretary of Transportation to issue regulations to reduce the incidence of child injury and death occurring inside or outside of light motor vehicles, and the bill was then passed, clearing the measure for the President. 4 pages HOUSE 11 bills, 46 pages Acadia National Park Improvement Act of 2007: H.R. 2251, amended, to extend the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission, to provide improved visitor services at the park; 4 pages Kalaupapa Memorial Act of 2007: H.R. 3332, amended, to provide for the establishment of a memorial within Kalaupapa National Historical Park located on the island of Molokai, in the State of Hawaii, to honor and perpetuate the memory of those individuals who were forcibly relocated to the Kalaupapa Peninsula from 1866 to 1969; 3 pages Authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to construct facilities to provide water for irrigation, municipal, domestic, military, and other uses from the Santa Margarita River, California: H.R. 29, to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to construct facilities to provide water for irrigation, municipal, domestic, military, and other uses from the Santa Margarita River, California; 12 pages Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2008: H.R. 5270, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend the funding and expenditure authority of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund; 5 pages Dr. Clifford Bell Jones, Sr. Post Office Designation Act: H.R. 3468, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1704 Weeksville Road in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, as the ``Dr. Clifford Bell Jones, Sr. Post Office''; 1 page Private Johnathon Millican Lula Post Office Designation Act: H.R. 3532, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 5815 McLeod Street in Lula, Georgia, as the ``Private Johnathon Millican Lula Post Office''; 1 page Jamaal RaShard Addison Post Office Building Designation Act: H.R. 4203, amended, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 3035 Stone Mountain Street in Lithonia, D126Georgia, as the ``Jamaal RaShard Addison Post Office Building''; 1 page Sergeant Jamie O. Maugans Post Office Building Designation Act: H.R. 5135, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 201 West Greenway Street in Derby, Kansas, as the ``Sergeant Jamie O. Maugans Post Office Building' 1 page National Ocean Exploration Program Act: H.R. 1834, amended, to authorize the national ocean exploration program and the national undersea research program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 352 yeas to 49 nays, Roll No. 62; 12 pages Making technical corrections to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act: S. 2571, to make technical corrections to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 400 yeas with none voting ``nay'', Roll No. 63--clearing the measure for the President; 2 pages American Braille Flag Memorial Act: H.R. 4169, to authorize the placement in Arlington National Cemetery of an American Braille tactile flag in Arlington National Cemetery honoring blind members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and other Americans, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 396 yeas with none voting ``nay'', Roll No. 65; 4 pages
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