February 14, 2003


Spending Bill Is Scorned but Is a Sure Vote-Getter: Thousands of pet projects received billions of dollars in the foot-high, 3,000-page spending package that finances most federal agencies through Sept. 30. (CARL HULSE, 2/14/03, NY Times)
With dollars for programs like highways, libraries, parks, water projects, and $5 million for an anticrime program that features McGruff the Crime Dog, the so-called omnibus spending bill takes a $397.4 billion bite out of the federal Treasury.

Written mainly in private after Congress gave up trying to pass spending measures last fall, the bill was described by Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, as the "biggest back-room deal" in the history of Congressional spending.

Experienced appropriations aides conceded that passing this sort of measure, which would not be read by many of those asked to vote on it, was made easier by the fact that it contained a little something for nearly everyone.

Of course it's an awful bill, but this one criticism, about no one having read it, is asinine. We long ago passed the point where the budget had grown so voluminous that no adult of average or better reading speed could open its foirst page on January 1 and be done reading by December 31. The simple truth is that no one knows, in its entirety, what's in the budget.

But the Democrats are on to something and it might offer the basis of some excellent reforms:

(1) US law and regulations, the tax code and the budget should be whittled down to the point where they can be read in one year.

(2) No congressman should be allowed to vote on any measure unless they can pass a pop quiz about what's in it.

(3) All measures should be written in plain language such that any American can read and comprehend what the bill states and should be published in its final written form prior to the congressional vote.

In addition, Democrats are certainly correct that the measure is too pork-laden, which is an excellent argument for reviving the Line Item Veto, but this time amending the Constitution to allow it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 14, 2003 9:09 AM

I am less concerned with what is in the budget than the time it takes to produce a vote.

I don't think it is mere size. There were proportionally big budgets in the past that got passed on time. There is something sclerotic in Congress.

Posted by: Harry at February 14, 2003 2:02 PM

Sure, when it was a one party state.

Posted by: oj at February 14, 2003 3:39 PM