Monday, June 30, 2008

Cleaning up Congress

In 2006 the voters gave the Democrats control of the House and the Senate, in part because the Republicans controlling Congress had not lived up to their promises of sound budgeting. However, under the Democrats deficit spending and earmarks continue.

The problem as I see it is that it's too easy to attach earmarks to bills passing through Congress. True, there are major projects approved by Congress that should never be approved. But earmarks represent a constant drain on financial resources that, if controlled, could yield substantial savings. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not proposing to completely eliminate earmarks. Some earmarks are worthwhile and ought to be passed. But the practice of simply attaching them to unrelated bills passing through Congress guarantees that they will not get the scrutiny they ought to.

The solution as I see it is twofold:

  1. Require that each bill approved by Congress must address a single subject
  2. Give the President a line item veto
The first provision would prevent bills from getting cluttered with unrelated special interest legislation. It would reduce the size of each bill and facilitate lawmakers concentrating on the main subject of the bill.

The second provision would help enforce the first by enabling the President to strike out provisions in a bill that do not address the subject of the bill.

Needless to say, this change could result in a vast increase in the number of bills Congress has to consider in each session. However, each bill would be smaller and address one subject, making evaluation easier. Some legislation would never come up for a vote, because of the logistics of steering it through Congress. That's not bad. A bill that really needs to be passed will be passed. The ones that don't come up for a vote are probably not worth passing anyway.

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