May 20, 2024

Congress and Its Dirty Tricks

Declan McCullagh agrees with me that Congress is screwing us by lumping unrelated spending measures and regulations together with other bills.

Specifically, McCullah lists the following tech-related measures that may come home to roost soon if Congress isn’t stopped:

  • The Real ID Act, which creates a national ID card starting in 2008, was glommed on to an $82 billion “emergency” military spending bill (HR1268) last year. Unless Americans are outfitted with these federalized ID cards, they won’t be able to do things like board airplanes or enter national parks and some government buildings.
  • Slapping a $15 tax on .com, .net and .org domain names in 1998 was part of an “emergency supplemental appropriations” bill (HR3579) to fund the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. The cash went to politically-savvy Network Solutions, now part of VeriSign.
  • Enacting a controversial proposal to punish Web masters with six months in prison if they publicly post anything that’s “harmful to minors.” Instead of holding an honest, up-or-down vote on the Child Online Protection Act, politicians slipped it into an “omnibus” bill (HR4328) to fund the bulk of the federal government, including the Treasury Department. COPA is being challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union.
  • Coercing libraries and schools into filtering Internet connections was done through the simple expedient of attaching it to an unrelated spending bill (HR4577 to fund the Treasury Department, Labor Department and Congress itself. A divided Supreme Court upheld the restrictions as constitutional.

I wonder (and that’s the right word – this is far outside my area of knowledge) if a lawsuit targeting the practice could get the courts involved? Can Congress or individual lawmakers be sued? Or could the particular items in a bill be challenged on the basis that the vote that passed the bill to which they were attached was not a fair vote on the rider? Probably not…

Regardless, this is a deplorable practice that ought to be stopped. Ultimately the ballot box could partially resolve the problem if we stopped re-electing the same people.

People would have to care to make that happen. But to care, they’d have to know what their government is planning to do to them. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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