Saturday, December 18, 2010

Great Legislative Snafus

Mixed news is good news: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal won a cloture vote and seems all-but-certain to succeed in a vote at 3 PM EST today; but the DREAM Act failed 55-41. Yes, feel free to complain about the ridiculousness of an institution that can’t pass a bill 55% of its members believe is a good one, which is why something is better than nothing. A historic something, no less. That said, in this season of good will towards men blah blah blah we’ve overlooked one of the great legislative blunders ever: the failure of the food safety bill.

Here’s what happened:
The food safety measure passed in the Senate 73-25 in November, but a procedural snafu voided the vote. In order to send the bill to the president’s desk, House leaders decided to attach it to the emergency year-end spending legislation.

What was the procedural snafu? The phrase there makes it sound quaint and innocent, and it was, if you regard following the rules of the Constitution as that. (Basically: decisions on spending are supposed to originate in the House; the bill originated in the Senate, hence #fail. Generally the Senate gets around this by—and here’s some legislative metaphysics for you—taking a dead House bill that’s lying around and putting whatever spending bill they want on the inside. They didn’t do it, which is a major cock-up.)

Of all the missed opportunities of the past two years—most of which were institutionally rather than individually determined—this has to rank as the worst, because it was so easily avoidable. Don’t forget to cross those eyes, dot those tees.

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