Special interests doom Zika funding

Pigs at the trough, lawmakers in WashingtonA bill in the US Senate that would have funded research to fight the Zika virus in this country failed yesterday. Why would such a critically important bill be voted down?

Because of a really stupid and costly policy that allows legislators to amend bills and add their own special earmarks, diverting or designating some of the funds for their own pet projects.

The Zika bill would have provided $800 million less than the White House requested. In addition it would have blocked grant money to Planned Parenthood (intended to help poor women with Zika avoid having deformed babies), rolled back Clean Water Act requirements (designed to keep pesticides out of drinking water), slashed U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs funding by $500 million and, finally, permitted the Confederate flag to fly at veterans cemeteries.

Pork barrel politics. As disgusting now as it’s always been. Each piece of legislation in Washington should deal with one topic, and one only. You vote yea or nay on funding Zika reasearch. Period. You want to cut funding to Planned Parenthood? Fine; draft a separate bill. You want to roll back Clean Water Act requirements? Draft your own bill. Ditto the VA funding cuts. And what’s the Confederate flag got to do with Zika funding?

Colorado law on referendums, for example, requires that each initiative deal with one topic. One. Uno. No amendments, riders, or earmarks dealing with unrelated issues. Each issue must be dealt with separately and must pass or fail on its own merits. So sensible. Makes you wonder how it ever became a law.

 



Categories: Law, Money

12 replies

  1. The only problem with your suggestion is that it makes sense. That will never work in government…

  2. The Senate would have to change its rules, Pied. You know, make a rule that says something like “Each bill will have only one topic.”

  3. A week ago I would have agreed with you, PT, but not now. I too used to think of things like ear-marking and political pork as bad. An article in the Atlantic changed my thinking. The argument starts something like this:

    Our intricate, informal system of political intermediation, which took many decades to build, did not commit suicide or die of old age; we reformed it to death. For decades, well-meaning political reformers have attacked intermediaries as corrupt, undemocratic, unnecessary, or (usually) all of the above. Americans have been busy demonizing and disempowering political professionals and parties, which is like spending decades abusing and attacking your own immune system. Eventually, you will get sick.

    I am curious to see whether How American Politics Became So Ineffective will change your minds as well.

    • Even as I wrote, I was aware that all those unrelated sections of the bill were part of a system of compromise and give-and-take (that unfortunately didn’t work this time). And also aware that such “kitchen sink” bills are just the way things get done in Washington. It’s as though the lawmakers can hammer out compromises behind the scenes, but putting it all in writing in such bills is how they guarantee it gets done as agreed. They don’t trust each other enough to say, “If you’ll support my bill on oranges, I’ll support your bill on apples.” They’re afraid that would result in a lot of oranges and very few apples in return.

      It shouldn’t have to be that way. We ought to have the transparency of roll call votes on single-issue bills. But I understand why it won’t happen. It’s the same reason that as much as I often despise the old-school politicos in Washington, I have to support at least some of them if I want to see anything get done. Newly elected greenhorns should go in with the idea that they’ll probably spend years accruing knowledge, building friendships and alliances, and earning seniority before they have a realistic chance to advance their own special interests. Just ask Pres. Obama about his promise to close Gitmo.

      I seriously doubt that Donald Trump could even begin to navigate the maelstrom of Washington politics.

  4. One Bill one topic…that makes perfect sense. Riders on Bills beg for pork barrel spending. The real reason a lot of Bills are voted against is because it has additional authorization for spending money or approving legislation on unresolved problems. Politicians think we are stupid!

"Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance." ~ Plato

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