Nancy Pelosi summed up one of the most infuriating aspects of our current statist government when she said, “We have to pass this bill in order to understand what is in it.” In this one sentence, she expressed just how our large complex bills have become out of control. It seems that in order to pass any bill of significance in our current Congress, votes must be bought by placing special interest provisions into the bills to sweeten the bill for the congressman’s vote. In addition, many of the bills are actually written by the special interests groups before they are submitted. The Healthcare bill of which Nancy Pelosi spoke was one of these. Often many of the items being placed into these omnibus bills have nothing to do with the subject of the main bill. It has become an excepted form of extortion of all Congressmen and Senators. In fact, it is impossible to have any affect in Congress without taking part in this practice.
In writing this, I originally thought that I was going to need to site case example after case example to prove my point. However, I quickly realized that the problem is so blatant of a problem that if one cannot see it already, then nothing I say will change it. So large is the problem that it will be impossible to reign in big government unless the Constitutional Convention addresses it head on. But if we are not careful, the pendulum can swing too far to the other direction. Compromise (on process, not principles) is at the heart of any collaborative problem solving effort. If we choke off collaborative compromise completely, the government will become ineffective in what it is supposed to do as well. We will not be much better off than the Article of Confederations, which required 2/3 majority for anything and unanimous consent to amend. No one will budge and it will become too hard to pass anything.
After much thought, I feel that an amendment should be written to limit bills to a scope of a single subject. The subject can be narrow (e.g., build a highway from Mexico to Mississippi) or broad (e.g., National Highway Transportation Bill). However, the elements of the bill and amendments to the bill must fit into the scope of the bill. Nothing outside the scope of the bill should be placed into it. If someone desires to study the effects on social behavior of feces throwing among primates (a real pork earmark), then they need to write a bill where it stands by itself, or attach it to an animal research bill.
I recognize that what I am proposing runs counter to Article 1, Section 5, Paragraph 2, which says:
Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two-thirds, expel a Member.
The Founding Father, believers in liberty, did not desire to be too prescriptive in how Congress conducts their business. I recognize and agree with their desire. However, they also warned in Federalist Paper #62 against what has now become commonplace in Congress.
It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?
Hello?! Does this sound familiar. Nancy Pelosi sure didn’t read Federalist Paper #62, prior to her statement. This also explains why it cannot be left to a House and/or Senate rule to solve the pork issue. Self-imposed measures have been attempted in the past only to have the rules waived without objection when necessary to pass a particular bill. Many representatives in the Congress pleaded for more time to read to read the Healthcare bill. But the controlling party pushed it down the throats of the conservatives and the American people. But this could not have happened if there were not such an over-whelming precedence already existing for such acts. The rules no longer apply to the elites in power. That is why the States and the People must take control back with the convention and then let those who have sworn allegiance to support and defend the Constitution enforce it.