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  • How a Bill Becomes Law: Chicago Style

    You might think that passing a bill through Congress is a really difficult and honorable task that involves late night debates, hours spent analyzing proposals and reading legislation, policy wonks splitting hairs over detailed issues, and a healthy dose of respectful opposition and transparency. Oh boy, would you be wrong. In this Congress, it’s rahm rahm rahm, Chicago-style.

    According to recent reports, Congressional leaders are censoring congressional mailings to avoid the appearance of two sides to the health care debate. And what is being censored? Democrats should be called “the majority,” and the “public option” cannot under any circumstances be called “government-run.” Not being able to say the “public option” is government-run is like being told you cannot call the Earth a planet. It’s simply incompatible with common sense, and the facts.

    So for education purposes, here is an updated lesson on how a bill becomes a law in Washington.

    Introduce a Bill, But Not the One You Really Plan on Passing: On Friday, June 26, 2009, the House of Representatives voted on final passage of the Waxman-Markey Cap and Trade Bill, a major piece of global warming legislation this year that will have a huge effect on the economy and the price Americans pay for energy. Both sides of this debate spent months arguing over the details. And then, at 3:09 am on June 26, the morning of the vote, the majority added over 300 pages to the bill. As of the final vote, not one member had a clear idea what was contained in that amendment.

    Do Not, Under Any Circumstances, Read the Bill: Reading the bill will only confuse the process and, according to Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), it will also take upwards of two days and two staffers, so it is not worth it. At the National Press Club this week, Congressman Conyers said: “I love these members that get up and say, ‘read the bill.’ What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages, and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”

    Further, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said “If every member pledged to not vote for [the health care bill] if they hadn’t read it in its entirety, I think we would have very few votes.” Hoyer continued: “I’m laughing because a) I don’t know how long this bill is going to be, but it’s going to be a very long bill.”

    Make the Bill Very Long and Very Complicated: The best way to achieve the previous objective of not reading the bill is to take the length of War & Peace, double it, and then use that as a starting point. The current House version of health care legislation is over 1,000 pages long. The stimulus bill was over 1,500 pages long. The Cap and Trade bill was over 1,000 pages long, and remember, had 300 pages added at the last minute.  No sneaky spending hidden in there, you can trust ‘em.

    Bypass Your Committee: If the moderate voices of Congress wish to debate a bill in committee and propose alternative ideas, bypass the committee entirely. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) knows this rule well, and has suggested there is “no alternative” to bypassing the committee if Blue Dog Democrats don’t accept the terms of the deal he sets on health care reform this week. Yes, there is clearly no alternative.

    Keep the American People in the Dark: When President Barack Obama took office, he promised on his transition website he would “not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House Web site for five days.” He failed to live to this promise on his very first piece of legislation. In fact, the website the White House unveiled to detail “transparent” stimulus spending was so bad, and lacked so little detail, that a cottage industry of private websites popped up to fill the void.

    Censor the Opposition: If nobody reads the opposition, did it really exist? Of course not. In an attempt to keep the American people in the dark, you must not let them hear opposing views, especially during a week where the President sets aside one hour of primetime network television time to address his side. Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) tried recently to send a chart detailing the expansion of government under the current plan, and the House Franking Commission told him no, even though it did not challenge the chart’s accuracy or purpose. Congressman John Carter (R-TX) tried to call the public plan “government-run” and was promptly told to cease saying such obvious things. It’s much easier to pass a bill when you can write the talking points for both sides.

    When the CBO Says Bad Things, Bring the Director in for a “Chat”: Last week, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Douglas Elmendorf was summoned to the White House after his office released an analysis showing that the President’s health care plan would increase the deficit and not produce the savings it promised. This move was absolutely unprecedented, as Congressman Tom Price (R-GA) points out: “[This] reeks of the type of Chicago-style politics that Americans were warned about. The CBO was created to be independent and nonpartisan. To spoil that with political dealings in the West Wing only adds to American cynicism about the President’s misguided health care plan.”

    Finally, Pass the Bill on a Friday: When passing really expensive bills that hurt the economy and fail to meet their objective, it is imperative this be done as late on Friday as possible, so by Monday people will have mostly forgotten, like the Waxman-Markey bill. The only thing better than a Friday is a Saturday in August when Americans are on vacation. Saturday, August 1 would be ideal for the health care bill, if there were to be one voted on before the recess.  Luckily, that is the current plan.

    So there you have the 2009 guide to passing a bill through Congress.  There will certainly be changes to these rules, but we can’t promise you’ll be told of them.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    39 Responses to How a Bill Becomes Law: Chicago Style

    1. Karen. Michigan says:

      E xcellent read and it would be funny if not so right to what is happening befor our very eyes.

    2. Robert D. Blake, Qui says:

      For now I am saddened for the Great State of Illinois. We have been shamed by Chicago style politics…of lately not just at the state level, but also at the Federal level, at that very seat of blood-born freedom and justice, founded by great men who would surely be repulsed at today's ill determination. Worse yet than that, and as a result, we are being proudly robbed of our very heritage…blatantly and arrogantly! Shall we be stirred to correctiveness…or shall degredation prevail at our hand? I choose the former.

    3. Pingback: John Conyers: What, Me Read The Bills? : Conservative Nation

    4. jim sardis,ms says:

      i assume,this is the way it has always worked.adding things to bills hoping they won't get caught until the bill has passed.the problem, is with the house and senate controlled by a party,there is not much that can be done to slow the process down enough to expose the bill as the health care,and stimulus.the corruption that exist from lobbyists and special interest by bribing politicians is the problem.the politicians operate like the unions.once,they get a term under their belt they have the seniority and start chairing committees for their lifetime.a national push has to take place to vote out incumbents and pass legislation to reform campaign contributions to slow down the corruption and initiate term limits.

    5. Mike, Knoxville says:

      Maybe I'm missing something here, but why don't the Repub's just release everything they want to and let the Dem's answer the public. Is there a law against releasing your own arguments against the other party's policies? Is this just another example of the Repub's not having a 'spine'?

    6. Shane (Perkasie, PA) says:

      Everything you described is 100% accurate of the Thugocracy we currently are governed by. If only those out dated, dead documents this country was founded on were once again employed we may not be forced to stand on the sidelines as our country goes down the toilet.

    7. Dale, Cincinnati says:

      If this were corporate America, executing executing unread contracts of this comparable magnitude would be subject to immediate termination. In my opinion legislators voting on bills of unknown content are committing impeachable if not criminal offenses.

    8. Jerry from Chicago says:

      I am sickened and disgusted with what passes for a Legislature these days. The arrogance, hypocracy and laziness of these people in the House and Senate is almost too much to comprehend.

      To Congressman John Conyers of Michigan I say, "Read the proposed legislation. I don't care if it takes you two days, two weeks or two months and a half dozen lawyers to figure it out. That is your job; it's what you get paid to do! How in the hell can you represent anyone if you don't know what it is you are voting for."

      I would say the same to Steny Hoyer, but I'd be wasting my breath.

      These people in Congress have become so rich, powerful and self-important they feel absolutely no responsibility to the people who they are supposed to represent. Salaries of $170,000 + (and that doesn't count the millions of their illgotten gains from lobbyists) with automatic raises, health insurance that would not be affected at all by any national health care plan they have in mind for the rest of us. And in retirement, no Medicare or Social Security pension for them, no sir, after two terms in office they receive a full government pension for the rest of their lives at 80% of what they were making prior to retirement. And this doesn't count the lobbying jobs they are promised by special interst groups after they leave government service, or the jobs their spouses and relatives are given by these groups.

      These people have set themselves up as royalty and expect to be treated as such. How dare you think of questioning their actions or motives. Who do you think you are? Every one of these people should be investigated along with the members of their family who are over 21 years of age to determine their sources of income and their affiliations with any lobbying groups.

      The hypocracy and mendacity of a Chris Dodd, looking into the cameras and telling the American public that he had nothing to do with approving AIG bonuses, only to be caught and admit to the lie two days later. And to tell the American public that he thought the sweetheart loaan he got from Fannie Mae was a perk of the job.

      And what about Nancy Pelosi, flying back and forth to California demanding private flights on military aircraft at taxpayer expense. What about her voting for an exception to the minimum wage law for Star Kist Tuna workers in the Hawaiian islands, a company in which she and her spouse owned considerable stock?

      These people stand in front of TV cameras and piously profess to be serving the people. There should absolutely be term limits in Congress and the Senate. No more than two terms per lifetime.

      These people are enriching themselves, robbing us blind and taxing everything they can't steal from us in other ways. We need to vote every one of them out of office a the first opportunity.

    9. Randy, Mississippi says:

      This becomes the modus operandi of politicians who lose sight of the fact that they are Public Servants and become Self Servants instead. They do what they want, how they want, and when they want and to hell with what the people who elected them think. Let's stop being lemmings already and do something about this travesty. http://WWW.GOOOH.COM Sign up and make a difference!

    10. Tom Iowa says:

      As William Jefferson Clinton so boldly stated, (What is the meaning of the word is?) Call it what you want it is GOVERNMENT run. If it walks like a duck, flies like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it must be a big GOOSE. Welcome to the Democrat definition.

    11. Randy, Mississippi says:

      Well lookie here! Censorship of comments left here. Are politicians running this website too?

    12. Paul Terry Stone says:

      It's sad that bills are typically so long that congressmen and senators can't represent us responsibly by reading and studying the bill. It's becoming so ridiculous that a bill needs to be passed governing the size of bills brought up for a vote.

    13. Bruce, Austin, TX says:

      Mike, the repub's are generally spineless (though not all). However, I think the "majority" censors them bc they control the purse strings. Mail costs, etc. are picket up by the gvnmt for "official" business. So, they censor opposition by saying it is not "official business" and then deny the expense request. This is shameless, and many "conservatives" just sit there and take it, to the demise of our country. May Sarah Palin's star shine brightly as she is one not afraid to tell the truth!

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    15. Mike says:

      If we do not do something soon as a nation to fight the socialist polcies of this President we deserve what we get. Our founding fathers gave us the ability to do just that in their writings as they founded our nation.

    16. Doris, Garden City, says:

      I don't know under what circumstances or even if you can sue government officials, but there are "class action" suits for everything else. Would it be possible to file a "class action" suit on behalf of the American people against the members of the Senate and the House for passing bills they have not read…and all the other underhanded tactics that have been used to accomplish it?

    17. Lynn B. DeSpain says:

      It has been this way for a long, long time! Attach a bad Bill to a popular Bill and it passes in the bulk of paper work. It is the one great argument for Line Item Veto!


    18. FireInsideTheMan, Mi says:

      If only one side of the argument gets to be heard by the American public, does opposition really exist? In Obama-land, the answer is clearly NO.

      This is a sick and twisted game, one in which the Democrats must take full responsibility for in destroying the government (and this country) directly from the inside out. They can no longer play ignorant or hide the truth of the matter, when all the evidence points to their misleading statements and outright lies to pass faulty legislation, which most representatives never even bother to read! What a disturbing thought…

      No wonder we have conspiracy theorists claiming there is a "shadow government" in Washington. It is clear who is running the show — Obama, Rahm, Axelrod, Pelosi, Reid, and the cabal of illegal topic czars appointed to report only to the President, side-stepping the existing bureaucracy.

    19. albert campbellsvile says:

      If someone or some group could reform D.C and cut waste,fraud and theft they would be national heros i wuold vote for them to be put on mt rushmore.

    20. Harry K, WI says:

      I am not sure that our form of government can withstand this amount of corruption. I used to wonder what it would take to have our government go the way of Rome. I see a government that does not represent the American people and see how easily it may fall. Name one program developed and ran from Washington that benefited the American people. Why have health care? Just issue each of us a "black pill" when we retire (I don't plan on ever doing that) so we leave this earth in peace and forget your greedy plans from Washington that no one reads.

    21. okiejim says:

      No bill is so crucial to the well being of this great country that it cannot be scrutinized thoroughly, not only by Congress, but the press and the people as well. Besides, any bill written that is so long as to discourage it from being read is not a bill, but an attempt to pull the wool over our eyes. Congress should be ashamed for allowing this to continue.

      We the people are the only oversight Congress has. We should be demanding better, and disposing of those who would try to rule by chicanery and deceit.

      When is the press going to start doing its job?

    22. keith,jackson,tn. says:

      Obama said five days before the election that we were 5 days away from fundamental changing the government forever. I believe that this is only one of the ways he and other democratic party members wont to take the power away form the people and give it solely to the government. If we let them do this we may become a socialist state.The republican party need to let the american people know everything the democractic or doing to change the gov.before It's too late.

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    24. Marilyn from Florida says:

      What are we to do? We are loosing our country so fast. I've written letters, phoned, faxed, e-mailed. I'm putting signs on my car, in front of the house. There has to be some way to save us. Can we impeach obama? Help!!!

    25. Kim . Columbus says:

      America needs to be restored to the fifties version.Enough said

    26. Spiritof76 says:

      The Republicans must walk out of the House and Senate and refuse to partcipate unless the bill is read, understood, public hearing held and held extensive discussions on it throughout the newsmedia and elsewhere. Whta is going on in the Congress is illegal and against the Oath that they all took.

      Republicans must organize a country-wide tour publicizing the shenanigans for the American people to see and understand. We are not being told the truth. We have got to get ridit of out timidity and face this menace to our way of life now.

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    29. Al, The Villages, Fl says:

      Did anyone not think that the Chicago style politics (if you want to call it that) wouldn't be alive and well in Washington? It is, along with ACORN and the unions as well. Notice that, in spite of the information being gained about ACORN and it's unethical (criminal maybe?) activities, the dems keep rejecting any effort to stop their funding by the taxpayers. I do think that the people are beginning to notice the gap between what the president is peddling and the facts regarding the bill's content or the knowledge of the subject he is addresssing.

    30. Dorothy, Lima, Oh says:

      This government insanity must stop. This administration is out of control and it's up to 'We the People' to reign it in. We need more Tea Parties and more townhall meetings with our representatives so we can face them with our demands. We have to stand against this government take over.

    31. Marshall Hill MI. says:

      Crossing the ISLE should put them on the LIST of

      Past Politicians,never to return!

    32. joseph says:

      Time to fire the POLITICAL CLASS and hire "representatives of the people". This is class warfare but not rich against poor or black against white. It is government vs. the people.

    33. Jim says:


    34. Bill MN says:

      sometimes the house is so far beyond repair you must just demolish it and rebuild from scratch. next time it won't be north against south it'll be right against left. I never thought I would live to see that day now I'm not so sure.

    35. Me,myself and I says:

      Randy, Mississippi writes:

      Well lookie here! Censorship of comments left here. Are politicians running this website too?


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    39. HairLipWoodChuck-Bea says:

      They have a "progressive" ring in their nose. The sole purpose of which is to lead them around with. They've been told to vote straight "PARTY LINE" and don't ask questions or hold interviews about their thought processes(or lack thereof)for fear of removing all doubt that they are fools! Put the lime in the coconut and mix a bowl up!!!!!!!!!!! Obama is going to have plates put in their lips next- so that they swallow the koolaid "straight " from the source, in his HONOR. This, do in rememberance of Saul- and The Annointed ONE!

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