Legacy building – or how to pass really unpalatable stuff

Between a rock and a hard placeBeware the lame duck. Strike that. Beware the WOUNDED lame duck. Those departing Congressional peeps are ready to place all of their soon-to-be former colleagues between a rock and a hard place.

Every year, it seems – and especially just following an election – Congress hands the American people an unpalatable Christmas present.

Using the hard-stop date of December 25th and the desire of our elected officials to get home, lame-duck bills are often delayed, passed late at night, and stuffed full of surprises no one had time to read.

I offer as Exhibit A: Obamacare. You might remember, it passed the Senate on Christmas Eve, 2009.  We are still learning what kind of surprises are inside that one….

Exhibit B: Sequestration.

Those two bills are not the only ones.

Sometimes, those Trojan horse bills come wrapped in almost irresistible packaging.

Take this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  Congress needs to pass a bill to fund our military and otherwise take care of our folks who are and have been in the armed services.

Pretty much no one is opposed to funding our veterans and our active duty service members – and the lame ducks know it.

In fact, they are counting on it.

Reports starting to come from DC observers say there is real reason to be concerned about gobs of unrelated bills showing up as part of the NDAA.

Retiring members of Congress (Both those retiring voluntarily and those who are not) are looking to legacy-build by readying an estimated 90 – NINETY! – different bills that have received little, if any public scrutiny.  Of course, these are almost certainly bills that cannot pass as stand-alones and won’t have the ability to even be read, let alone debated prior to passage.

Frustratingly, there is no official bill language (so much for “most transparent administration ever”) and there probably won’t be until very close to a potential vote. Sources close to the issue expect the bill to start in the House and then proceed to a Senate vote with less than 72 hours “warning.”

Conservatives want an open and transparent debate on our national defense priorities. It’s what needs to happen and frankly, it’s what we elect our representatives to do. Other members want to use this MUST-PASS bill to tack on their pet projects and see what legacy they can leave as they walk off Capitol Hill. This self-centered “I’m getting mine” attitude will end up threatening the passage of an incredibly important national security bill – and at a time we’re facing growing international threats from IsIs, Syria, and Iran.

You know – KNOW – this bill will be sold as “the bill that pays our troops” and indeed it does. It deserves to be a stand-alone bill, debated on its merits and appropriateness. Putting 90 other bills into this bill turns it into an unpalatable mess.  It also puts our elected officials between that proverbial rock and a hard place.

If they vote for it, they are voting for pet projects, for unrelated items that almost certainly do not fall into the “government-must-do” category and millions (or is that billions??) of unrelated spending. If they vote against it, they hate the military. And probably puppies.

How do YOU think your reps and Senators should vote if all these surprises turn up in a bill on oh, December 23rd? And then remind me again why people get involved in politics? Surely it’s not for the easy answers the armchair quarterbacks always seem to have…….