Introduction to the One Subject at a Time Act

Congress routinely passes unpopular laws by combining them with completely unrelated bills that have majority support. For example . . .

The REAL ID Act, which was designed to create a national ID card, had so little support in the Senate that it couldn't even be brought to a vote. A national ID card was opposed by a majority of the Senate, and historically, by the vast majority of the American people, but now it is the law of the land.

How did this happen?

It happened because House and Senate leaders attached the REAL ID Act to legislation the Senate was afraid to oppose, the "Emergency, Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief." (May 2005)

Senators didn't want to vote against a defense appropriation, or Tsunami relief, so the REAL ID Act became the law of the land.

Sadly, this is far from the only example. Here's another one . . .

When a few moral busybodies in Congress wanted to stop online gambling, but lacked the votes to get their way, they attached their unwanted legislation to a bill on Port Security. Few in Congress were likely to vote against a measure to strengthen security at our nation's ports, and so the completely unrelated online gambling law was passed too.

DownsizeDC.org's "One Subject at a Time Act" (OSTA) is designed to prevent outrages such as these by requiring that each bill that comes to a vote be about one subject, and one subject only. Any legislation passed in violation of this requirement will be considered null-and-void before the nation's courts. But that's not all . . .

Most bills passed by Congress try to hide what their subject is by resorting to propagandistic titles such as the "No Child Left Behind Act," or the "PATRIOT Act," or the "Protect America Act." No one wants to be accused of voting to leave children behind, or against partiotism, or against protecting America, but none of these bill titles actually describe the subjects of these bills. So . . .

The "One Subject at a Time Act" requires that all legislation be given titles that describe what the bills would actually do, so that members of Congress and the public can know what the "one subject" of the bill actually is. Good examples of proper titles would be the "Read the Bills Act," or the "Write the Laws Act," or for that matter, the "One Subject at a Time Act."

Background: Read the full text (5 pages) of the "One Subject at a Time Act."

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